PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The search continued Wednesday for two missing swimmers near the entrance of the Pass-a-Grille channel.
Andrew Dillman, 27 from New York, and Jie Lou, 21, a foreign exchange student from China, went missing when the current pulled them away on Tuesday night.
At 6:10 p.m. on Tuesday, St. Petersburg’s Coast Guard sector received a report from the captain of a boat named Jaguar, stating two men were missing from the 71-foot yacht, and rescuers have been searching ever since.
“You see many assets out here and we’ll continue to have assets out here through the night and continue this on,” said Pinellas Co. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
Fifteen students from Colorado State University were visiting Orlando when they made a reservation to charter the vessel for the day.
When they finally made it to sea, the boat anchored and five students, including Lou jumped out for a swim.
“By the third time that he jumped in, Lou had trouble getting back to the boat and the current was very strong and the current was going out in the Gulf. So at that point. It was obvious Lou was in distress,” said Gualtieri.
The boat’s first captain, Andrew Dillman jumped in to save him and was also swept away. Neither have been seen since.
Authorities say there were alcoholic beverages on board, but there is no indication that the missing men or any crews members were intoxicated.
The men’s families have been notified and are making arrangements and decisions around coming to Tampa.
So far, Coast Guard crews and partner agencies have conducted 22 searches over 419 square miles, from North St. Pete Beach to Santa Maria Island.
They say the boat probably shouldn’t have been on the water yesterday.
“There’s a small craft advisory in effect. We highly recommend people heed those warnings unless you’re an experienced mariner or skilled in navigating those sorts of waters in this sort of weather. Recommend you stay off the water,” said Lt. Paul Simpson with U.S. Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard received ten distress calls from boaters on Tuesday.
Sheriff Gualtieri said the students asked boat captain, Todd Davis if they could jump in the water. Davis told authorities that he advised against it.
The students told officials Davis never said whether or not the water was safe or if they were allowed to jump in.
The boat, Jaguar, is listed under Florida Yachts Charter in St. Petersburg.
Calls made to the company, were not returned.
Lou’s classmates head back to Colorado on Thursday. Out of state authorities are working with the sheriff’s office as the investigation continues.
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