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Body of missing yacht boatmate recovered in Gulf of Mexico

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The body of a yacht boatmate missing nearly a week after jumping in to try and save a Colorado college student was recovered in the Gulf of Mexico Monday, according to a Florida law enforcement statement.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Largo issued a news release confirming the body of Andrew Charles Dillman, 27, had been recovered more than 7 miles from the point at which he had gone missing March 14.

Dillman went missing after being swept away by strong currents after jumping into a channel to try and save Jie Luo, 21, a college student at Colorado State University on spring break with 14 friends.

The report made no mention of recovering Luo’s body.

The pair went missing when Luo, part of a party of 15 students who chartered a 71-ft. yacht named “Jaguar” March 14 in the afternoon, couldn’t make it back to the boat after he jumped in the channel at Pass-a-Grill, near St. Pete Beach.

Dillman, the captain’s boatmate jumped in after him to rescue Luo.

Neither were wearing flotation devices.

The U.S. Coast Guard and sheriff’s office mobilized boats and helicopters in a dayslong search that included hundreds of square miles. By March 17, the effort transitioned from a rescue into a recovery operation.

Dillman’s body, spotted just after 2 p.m. Monday by a boater, was floating in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 3 miles west of Egmont Key. Deputies were able to later confirm the identity of the missing boatman.

The students chartered the Jaguar online from Orlando for $2,000 via Florida Yacht Charters, which set out at approximately 4 p.m. March 14. The conditions were reported to be choppy, windy and rough, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri had said at a news conference March 15.

Captain Todd Davis took the students for a slow ride lasting about 45 minutes to Pass-a-Grille and decided to anchor instead of continuing into the Gulf of Mexico. There was some discussion between the students and Davis about going snorkeling in the water after the vessel was anchored, the sheriff said.

Davis claimed he told them not to jump in the water. But several of the students jumped into the fast-flowing waters anyway several times.

The third time the students jumped into the water, only four made it back to the vessel. Luo was having trouble swimming back to the ship, and that’s when Dillman, jumped in to assist Luo

The students later told officials they were not made aware of the dangerous conditions, Gualtieri said.

Davis attempted to toss Dillman a personal flotation device, but the wind caught it and blew it in the opposite direction.

The captain quickly pulled in the anchor and tried to search for both swimmers near the last place he saw them but was unable to locate them.

The statement Monday said Dillman’s family had been notified.

Les Neuhaus is an all-platform journalist, with specialties in print reporting and writing. In addition to Florida Politics, he freelances as a general-assignment and breaking-news reporter for most of the major national daily newspapers, along with a host of digital media, and a human rights group. A former foreign correspondent across Africa and Asia, including the Middle East, Les covered a multitude of high-profile events in chronically-unstable nations. He’s a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, in which he served as a Security Policeman, and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a B.A. in political science. He is a proud father to his daughter and enjoys spending time with his family.

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