ST. PETE BEACH (AP) — Authorities in Florida are continuing to search for a college student on spring break and a charter boat crew member who went missing in turbulent Tampa Bay-area waters.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Wednesday during a news conference that 15 Colorado State University students were on a charter boat anchored Tuesday evening off Shell Key when five male students went swimming off its side.
Four students made it back. Coast Guard officials said Wednesday a crew member saw the fifth student struggling and jumped into the water to help.
The Coast Guard identified the crew member as 27-year-old Andrew Dillman of New York, and the student as 21-year-old Jie Luo of China.
Gualtieri said there are conflicting reports about whether the captain of the 71-foot boat allowed the students to swim in the rough water. The captain said he didn’t give permission but the students said the captain didn’t say they couldn’t swim.
Deputies told the Tampa Bay Times that neither man wore a flotation device. The students, who were staying in Orlando but came to the Gulf Coast to take the boat trip, were drinking, Gualtieri said. There’s no indication the crew was intoxicated.
Gualtieri said his agency, along with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard, will continue searching for the men for at least a day, if not longer.
“Experience tells us that we need to keep this going,” he said, adding that conditions in the Gulf are choppy, with heavy currents.
Dillman’s family members are flying to the area from New York and Luo’s family is considering coming from China, he said.
Authorities have notified the Chinese consulate in Houston.
Colorado State University spokesperson Mike Hooker expressed concern for the students and Dillman in a statement Wednesday.