FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — About a week after a father-daughter dinner, Roger “Rocky” Pinckney died, falling victim to bacteria in one of the celebratory oysters.
Pinckney arrived at Memorial Pembroke Hospital on the evening of July 23, his 44th birthday, with a fever and abdominal pain, according to a medical report. Two days prior, he had eaten oysters at the Rustic Inn Crabhouse in Fort Lauderdale.
At the hospital, he tested positive for Vibrio vulnificus, a pathogenic bacteria found in marine environments.
After a week of emergency surgeries and a double amputation, he was pronounced dead on July 31, 2022.
Pinckney was the president of 5 Diamond Construction Inc., based in Davie, and the owner of Seminole Auto Salon and Rocky’s Pest Services. His father described him as “hardworking kid” and a boxing fanatic.
“He was the life of every single party,” said his daughter Jaelyn Pinckney. “Never a single moment of just boring around him.”
Pinckney said she and her dad went out to celebrate her high school graduation and his birthday at the Rustic Inn on July 21. He ran into a friend from when he worked at the restaurant nearly 20 years ago, then the two of them sat down to a dinner of grouper, flounder, peony shrimp and oysters. They finished off their night with Key lime pie.
Although both the Pinckneys ate the oysters, only he began to feel sick. No other patrons of the restaurant got sick from the oysters, according to the manager Gary Oreal. Two days later, Pinckney went to the hospital.
“I called him on his birthday and he didn’t feel good,” his father said. “He didn’t want to go out. I said we could celebrate next week, and then he went to the hospital.”
His daughter said she went to the hospital every day. She recalled the trauma team seemed surprised at what they were seeing at first, but they did everything they could to save him.
“It still doesn’t feel completely real,” she said. “I don’t know how an oyster could cause all of this.”
In Florida this year, 26 Vibrio vulnificus infections have been reported, with six of those resulting in deaths, according to data from the Florida Department of Health. Those with these preexisting conditions were 80 times more likely to develop Vibrio bloodstream infections than healthy people, according to a recent study, and bloodstream infections are fatal about 50% of the time.
These infections can occur when people eat raw shellfish, particularly oysters. The warmer coastal waters during the summer months can cause an uptick in cases.