Detectives are asking for witnesses who might have seen a beating outside a Marathon bar early Saturday to come forward.
Michael Pietsch, 28, was found on the concrete outside the Kmart fishing center at U.S. 1 and Sombrero Beach Boulevard around 2 a.m. after he left the neighboring Brass Monkey Lounge. He was bleeding from his head and making gurgling sounds.
He was taken to Fishermen's Community Hospital and then airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami, where he was initially listed in critical condition with "multiple brain bleeds, orbital zygomatic fractures" and a spinal fracture. He's since been stabilized.
No arrests were made.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Pietsch, from Virginia, was in Marathon attending the International Diving Center Career Institute at Hall's Dive Center, owner Bob Brayman said. The institute teaches people how to run a dive business. Brayman said Pietsch was "three and a half months in, he was getting toward the latter days. He was doing great, smart kid."
Brayman said Pietsch was a U.S. Navy veteran who had aspirations to be a SEAL but that wasn't possible because of injuries he received while in the service.
According to a Monroe County Sheriff's Office report, some people who were in the Brass Monkey when Pietsch was there said he was drunk and causing some "trouble" about 20 minutes before he was assaulted. One person said Pietsch later "assaulted the suspect" outside, and the suspect hit back.
Another witness who was outside said he saw the "assailant run across the parking lot from the Brass Monkey and assault the driver in a vehicle. The verbal altercation then became physical," deputies wrote. The witness said the fight continued in front of the car, then "he heard a loud crack and saw [Pietsch] fall to the ground."
Whoever assaulted Pietsch drove away in a white sport utility vehicle, the Sheriff's Office said. Detective Vince Weiner is investigating. He can be reached at 305-289-2410.