Body recovered in search for missing boater, deputies say

James Eddie Curtis, 22, jumped into lake after dog fell in, investigators say

By Allyson Henning - Reporter, Corley Peel - Reporter, Nick Jones - Digital producer

ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. - Family members confirmed Tuesday that the body of a man found during a search of an Alachua County lake was that of man who went underwater while attempting to rescue a dog.

James Curtis Jr.According to Major Brad Smith, James Eddie Curtis Jr., 22, went underwater around 6 p.m. Monday while trying to save a dog that Curtis and his girlfriend cared for. The dog fell off their boat into Little Lake Santa Fe, a spring-fed lake in northeastern Alachua County.

The dog did not survive, Smith said. 

Family members said Curtis' girlfriend, who was in the boat with Curtis' 8-year-old niece, told investigators he did not resurface after going into the water. She and Curtis' niece made it back to shore safely.

Residents were taking deputies out on boats Monday evening to search, the Sheriff's Office said. Before nightfall, air support was being provided from the Alachua County Sheriff's Office and Putnam County Sheriff's Office.

A 'selfless' 22-year-old

Curtis is remembered by his family members by his gracious character. The 22-year-old served in the National Guard before starting a detailing business in his hometown of Keystone Heights.

Christy Curtis, his mother, said her son always put others first. She said he was a strong swimmer, but deputies said he wasn't wearing a life vest when he jumped into the water.

"He was selfless," Christy Curtis said. "It was all just a tragic accident."

LINK: Help the family with memorial & funeral expenses

His family spent the day together, reminiscing their favorite memories, grieving the loss of their loved one and holding on to their faith.

"James is in a better place, but in our minds, we couldn't think of a better place for him to be but in our lives because he certainly made our lives better," said Donnie Lott, James Curtis' cousin. "We are not going to say goodbye to James, we are just going to say, 'See you in a little while.'"

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