COZUMEL, Mexico -- A cruise to Mexico took a deadly turn for a Jacksonville husband who was there teaching a seminar on safety.
"It was really a reaction of unbelief when I first got the call. Maybe it's a mistake. Let's wait and see," said State Representative Mia Jones.
Jones was shocked to learn that one of her closest friends, Andrew Wooten, 50, died suddenly. She said he drowned Tuesday after being swept away by strong currents in Cozumel, Mexico.
"He was on a Carnival cruise line working with realtors that were doing continuing education courses and did an excursion when they had a day at one of the ports, and during that excursion went swimming and was caught in the undercurrent ... They were able to retrieve his body. They did try to resuscitate him but they were not able to," explained Jones.
Wooten was the president of Safety Awareness Firearms Education known as S.A.F.E. and had lived in Jacksonville for more than a decade. According to his company's website, he conducted more than 6,000 training programs worldwide and had a black belt in four different martial arts. Friends say he was well-known in the real estate community on the First Coast and across the state.
Jones said Wooten never met a stranger without becoming a friend and was a role model to many.
"Andrew was a man who was full of life. He had a heart bigger than you would believe. He was always looking for ways to give and give back to the community to people who were in need, and I don't think he ever met anyone who didn't end up being his friend after they just had a few minutes of talking to him," said Jones.
The Carnival Elation cruise liner was scheduled to return to New Orleans Thursday. We reached out to Carnival Thursday night for a comment, but haven't gotten a response.
Friends say Wooten's body is expected to be flown back from Mexico in the next day or two. His funeral will be held Monday at 11 a.m. at Bethel Baptist Institutional Church where he was a member.
First Coast News