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Friends identify teen who drowned in St. Marys River

Friend says they were at river for 10 minutes before Joshua "J.T." Lewis drowned

MACCLENNY, Fla. – A 17-year-old boy drowned Monday afternoon while swimming in the St. Marys River, the Baker County Sheriff's Office said.

Friends identified the teenager as Joshua "J.T." Lewis. 

One of his friends, who was there when Lewis drowned, spoke to News4Jax Tuesday. The friend, who wished to remain anonymous, said they had only been at the river for about 10 minutes before Lewis went underwater and never came back up.

The group of four friends went to the Boy Scout camp, near a county-owned boat ramp off Steel Bridge Road in Macclenny, to have some fun Monday afternoon.

"Our goal was that we were going to swim across the river to the other side of the sand dunes and then swim back across to the rope swing so we could all play on the rope swing," Lewis' friend said. 

The man said they didn't realize how strong the current was in the river.

"We looked back to him screaming, saying, 'I can't do this,'" the friend said. "Two friends who were with him tried to swim out and get him. He grabbed a hold of one of them and I guess he just panicked too quickly and he just went under. They tried going under, looking for him, but nobody could find him."

About 3 p.m., the Macclenny Fire Rescue dive team was called to search for the teen. His body was recovered just before 5:30 p.m.

Lewis' friend now wants to warn anyone heading to the river this summer to be careful.

"If you don't think you can get to the other side, don't go, don't go," his friend said. 

The Sheriff's Office has not confirmed Lewis' name, but told News4Jax that he was reported as a runaway from his home in Jacksonville last week.

Baker County Fire Rescue, Macclenny Fire Rescue, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Sheriff's Office all assisted in the search. 

Lewis was the second person who drowned in that area of the St. Marys River this year. Jacoby Clayton, 14, drowned there in April.