JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A father and two children have been located safe, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department says, after an empty boat was found Friday evening in the St. Johns River.
Authorities with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, Sheriff’s Office and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were assisting in the search, which began at about 6:45 p.m. Authorities were spotted at the end of Journeys End Lane in Mandarin.
JFRD said the boat was found anchored and that no one was on board.
“There were shoes, kids shoes, there was a cellphone and fishing poles in the water,” explained Eric Prosswimmer, spokesperson for JFRD. “So at that point we knew we had some people missing.”
Prosswimmer said the father had stopped the boat in the water with an anchor and that the children -- ages 4 and 7 -- were swimming. He said the 7-year-old was not wearing a life jacket, while the 4-year-old was.
“The current got ahold of them, moved the boat and started separating them. Dad went after the 4-year-old, and it turns out that the 7-year-old ended up swimming to shore,” Prosswimmer said.
After getting in touch with the 7-year-old, Prosswimmer said, authorities learned the current swept the father and the 4-year-old “quite a ways away.”
The search expanded, and Prosswimmer estimated they drifted more than a mile away from the boat.
“Dad (the father), I know for a fact, Dad was found right by the Buckman Bridge,” he said.
The JFRD spokesperson said the search lasted for approximately 90 minutes. He said that everyone involved is doing well and that the children were transported to a hospital as a precautionary measure.
Prosswimmer noted that neither the 7-year-old nor the father were required to wear a life vest. He said the law applies to children age 6 and under for a vessel that’s under 26-feet.
With it being Memorial Day weekend, Prosswimmer reminded anyone on the water to be safe and smart.