JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — The search for a military student who drowned over the weekend in Jackson County is over.
Search crews found the victim’s body around 12:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.
Investigators with the Jackson County’s Sheriff’s Office said someone out of a group of 33 military students went below the water’s surface near spring creek around one Saturday afternoon.
The victim was a 38-year-old colonel from Fort Rucker in Dale County, Alabama.
Jackson County Sheriff Donnie Edenfield said the victim was in flight school to become an Apache helicopter pilot.
“Some reports indicated that the military student started out the trip with his safety vest on and at some point may have taken it off,” Edenfield said. “I do know when we recovered the body he did not have it on so obviously we want to encourage anyone that gets on this creek or this river, any waterways especially if it is some you are not familiar with or you’re not comfortable in the water please wear your safety vest.”
Edenfield said the victim told the friends he couldn’t swim.
According to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, the victim disappeared under the water at the intersection of Chipola River and Spring Creek.
“Each weekend we have upwards of a couple thousand people a weekend and on holiday weekends it’s more than that, that come raft and canoe down these creeks,” Edenfield said. “Obviously if you are not familiar with the water, if you are not comfortable with the water it does pay to wear your life jacket.”
The Jackson County dive team and the Houston County dive team searched for hours over the weekend.
Colby Smith, a local resident, familiar with the area, helped with the search and was the one who found the victim’s body.
He found the body shortly after a three-hour search.
“On the way out, we went a few bends downs from the incident where he drowned and saw him surfaced, floating,” Smith said.
Smith said the creek isn’t considered dangerous, but it can be if you aren’t a great swimmer.
“If you are scared of the water I wouldn’t recommend getting in the river part,” Smith said. “Spring Creek is shallow you can pretty much walk the whole way out, but once you get to the Chipola River and it mixes with that river current and the creek current meets, it’s almost like an undertow at the beach.”
Authorities said no one else in the group was hurt and they do not believe alcohol was involved.