JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WDHN) — The search for a missing Fort Rucker student is over as rescue crews recovered his body early Monday morning.
The victim was a 38-year-old colonel in flight school, training to be an apache helicopter pilot at Fort Rucker. He was there with 33 other students.
The Jackson County Sheriff Donnie Edenfield says he told his friends that he couldn’t swim.
Law officers say they do not believe alcohol was involved.
His body was recovered 36 hours after he went underwater, with multiple teams assisting including several groups from the Wiregrass.
One of the groups that helped in the search was the Houston County Search and Rescue team.
“Worked until about 12:20 a.m. and decided we would call it night and we were headed back in,” President of the Houston County Rescue team, Chris Ball said. “We got about a quarter-mile outside of the search area and we saw the victim hanging up on a tree just under the surface.”
According to the Houston County Rescue team, the group of students was floating down Spring Creek near Bear Paw Adventures in Marianna with life jackets on. Then one of the students took off his life jacket and jumped into the water and by the time his classmates got to him, the student was under the water.
“So I assume that he thought it was shallow enough to stand in and from what the witnesses say they saw him struggling on the surface and by the time they got to him he was under the water,” Ball said.
Ball says the search area given to them was under 500 feet and their search area was where Spring Creek meets the Chipola River.
“We didn’t even get the call until 4:30 p.m or 4:45 p.m., so at that point, we kinda knew it was a recovery effort,” Ball said. “We put all of our focus on looking under the water as opposed to looking on the shoreline to see if he got out of the water.”
Ball says that before the incident occurred the students were all apparently wearing their life jackets from photos they took, then the one student took his life jacket off about 10 to 15 minutes before the incident occurred.
“The biggest thing I can say is life jackets, life jackets, and life jackets.”
From the Wiregrass, the Vicksburg Fire Department, the Fort Rucker Fire Department, and Fort Rucker military officials also assisted in the search.
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