JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Dive teams, air units and rescue boats are searching for a man who went overboard in the St. Johns River.
The man has been identified as James Thomas Ricks, 43, of Jacksonville.
Florida Fish and Wildlife said a group of six adults were on a boat that launched on the river out of Arlington and spent the day boating.
Ricks, the owner of the boat, stopped the vessel without anchoring it down and jumped in the river for a swim, but not even a minute went by and he was going under, according to FFW.
"Immediately the people that were still on that boat observed that he was in distress, they tossed a line out to him and he never resurfaced," said Lt. Sharon Scott, of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
JSO dive teams, Florida Fish and Wildlife units and Coast Guard units began searching for Ricks. His wife said he's a strong swimmer and friends told me they had just gone out boating Saturday night.
"When this happened the current was outgoing, it was moving rather, I don't know the exact speed of it but I was going to say three to four knots moving offshore, moving tide was going out," said Lt. Tony Wright, Florida Fish and Wildlife.
Officials say there were enough life jackets on the boat, but no one was wearing them. By law they don't have to.
Rescue teams started their search by circling the Ricks' last location and working outward.
"We've had air units circling because usually we can see down into the water, the air units didn't see nothing, our units have searched with sonar, they didn't pick up nothing," said Wright.
With boating being a popular activity on Memorial Day, officials are urging people to stay on their vessels.
"Please stay in the boat. This individual appears to have voluntarily jumped out. There's no reason to jump out of the boat especially in the St. Johns River with the current and tide the way it was," said Wright.
With Memorial Day being the start of the recreational boating season, it's important to know that statistics show Florida has the highest number of boating accidents and boating deaths, according to a study conducted by the National Safe Boating Council.
First for you, under Florida law you must have enough life jackets for everyone on a vessel.
Florida law urges boaters to wear life jackets, all children under the age of six are required by law to wear a life jacket while on a boat, children under the age of 13 have to wear a life jacket on any recreational boat that is underway, meaning not anchored or tied down.
First Coast News