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Search continues for missing diver off coast of Mayport

Father of 3 was spearfishing about 46 miles off coast but didn’t return to boat

Father of 3 was spearfishing about 46 miles off coast but didn’t return to boat.
Father of 3 was spearfishing about 46 miles off coast but didn’t return to boat.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The search continued Sunday for Timothy Obi, a missing diver who was last seen Saturday off the coast of Mayport, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Capt. Mark Vlaun, commander of Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, tweeted Sunday morning that a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft was conducting a wide-area search and Coast Guard Cutter Tarpon was also on scene, coordinating with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department.

Vlaun said units continued to search later in the afternoon. He said the drift on the surface was minimal, providing a localized search area and good on-scene conditions.

According to the Coast Guard, the JSO Marine Unit and JFRD are conducting side-scan sonar scans of the seafloor. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is searching with three boats and one aircraft.

Signs could also be seen Sunday at the Mayport Boat Ramp, urging people to help look for Obi. The Coast Guard said an urgent marine bulletin is being broadcasted on Channel 16, and volunteers wanting to assist with the search should contact Sector Jacksonville on Channel 16. Volunteers are asked to search in two large areas to the west of the dive site.

According to the Coast Guard, Timothy Obi was last seen while spearfishing at these coordinates: N 30º28.796′ -- W 80º28.228′ -- about 46 miles off Mayport, where Vlaun said the water is anywhere from 90- to 120-feet deep.

Obi’s family said the Jacksonville native and father of three went out with three friends on a boat about 6:45 a.m. Saturday, with the group leaving from a dock behind Obi’s friend’s house in the Isle of Palms neighborhood. Obi’s family said three of the four people on the boat went diving around 11:18 a.m. for 20 minutes, but Obi didn’t come back up. The dive vessel notified Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville watchstanders about 12:15 p.m. that Obi had disappeared.

Vlaun told News4Jax that the three divers performed a safety stop together at 15 feet below the surface and then lost contact with Obi about 5 feet below the surface.

“We do believe, if he was on the surface, we know he wouldn’t have drifted that far,” Vlaun said Sunday. “The assumption is that we’re looking for someone on the surface. That’s why we’ve used aircraft as well as boats and ships to continue to really saturate that area.”

Obi’s wife told News4Jax that he was a Jacksonville Beach lifeguard member of the American Red Cross Volunteer Life Saving Corps for many years and was a very good swimmer and experienced diver.

Christopher Borger, a local dive instructor, said he’d been diving with Obi a few times.

“He’s a strong diver. He’s got experience, so it’s a hard hit,” said Borger. Borger said he wants to help find Obi.

“I know the bottom. I know the reef. Guys go out there all the time for grouper, red snapper,” said Borger.

  • MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew from Air Station Savannah
  • HC-130 Hercules airplane aircrew from Air Station Clearwater
  • HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane aircrew from Air Station Miami
  • A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew from Station Mayport
  • Coast Guard Cutter Tarpon
  • Coast Guard Cutter Raymond Evans

About the Author:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.