wjxt logo

‘Everybody is looking’: Coast Guard calls in more resources to search for missing diver

Timothy Obi, pictured here with two of his children, was diving and spearfishing with friends Saturday morning. The father of three and husband didn’t resurface after submerging in 120 feet of water, loved ones said.
Timothy Obi, pictured here with two of his children, was diving and spearfishing with friends Saturday morning. The father of three and husband didn’t resurface after submerging in 120 feet of water, loved ones said. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

MAYPORT, Fla. – For the third day, the U.S. Coast Guard is leading the search for a diver that went missing 46-miles off the coast of Mayport.

Timothy Obi, 36, was diving and spearfishing with friends Saturday morning. The husband and father of three didn’t resurface after submerging in 120 feet of water, loved ones said.

RELATED: Searchers hope dive flag, inflatable buoy will lead them to diver | Weather, current factors in search

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission boats joined the Coast Guard search.

Volunteers also used boats to search the area where Obi was last seen.

The search for Timothy Obi continues with the help of several agencies including: the Coast Guard, the JSO marine Unit, JFRD and volunteers.
The search for Timothy Obi continues with the help of several agencies including: the Coast Guard, the JSO marine Unit, JFRD and volunteers.

On The Morning Show on Monday, Captain Mark Vlaun, the area Coast Guard commander, spoke about the operation.

“We were out there almost all day [Sunday] doing sidescan sonar at the bottom,” Vlaun said. “And we’ve had FWC and Coast Guard assets on the air and in the surface now for three straight days, 24/7 looking for Timothy Obi, and we will continue to do so today.”

Vlaun said U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine crew was joining the search with its Jacksonville-based reconnaissance plane. News4Jax flew in the same aircraft as federal agents searched for two missing firefighters in 2019.

MORE | Federal agents use counter-narcotics planes to search for missing boaters

USCG Cutter and Air Asset Cunducting Searches

#update The U.S. Coast Guard continues search efforts for Mr. Obi, with continuous coverage throughout the area. CGC RAYMOND EVANS and a C-144 Aircraft from Air Station Miami will be conducting surface searches throughout the morning. Alongside the USCG, MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife will be continuing search efforts with surface assets and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be joining the search with air support. The Coast Guard has established two additional search areas for volunteer boaters west of the incident location based on environmental conditions and to best augment ongoing search efforts. Mr. Obi was in a black wetsuit. All boaters are asked to be on the lookout for an inflatable buoy that he had with him. Those assisting in the search are reminded to stay within the capability of their boat and crew, bring required safety equipment including lifejackets, and be mindful of changing weather conditions. #SAR #coastguard #searchandrescue #ready #relevent #D7 #USCG

Posted by U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville on Monday, July 12, 2021

“What has been a little bit different, we don’t have a lot of drift,” Vlaun said, referring to the current. “Here we have a couple of data marker buoys in the water that are actually demonstrating we have very little movement on the surface, which has allowed us to focus all of that search effort and a much more confined area, which is giving us a much higher probability of detection than we might normally have in open ocean search.”

Vlaun said Obi was in a wetsuit and should have a dive flag and inflatable buoy with him.

“So the challenge with this search is we know we’re just looking for an individual and he’s wearing a black wetsuit,” he pointed out. “So that is one of the more challenging things in terms of search objects to find from the air or on the surface. We do know from the family that he did have a dive rescue float and a flag with him. So if he was able to deploy that, that would increase and enhance our potential pick that up both by sensor or by someone actually going out there and seeing that, which is why we pushed it out to the public.”

Vlaun said volunteers with capable boats and necessary safety equipment can help with the search. They’re asked to coordinate with the Coast Guard on VHF channel 16.

“So what we’ve done is we’ve set up a couple of boxes. We’ve asked volunteers to focus in and those are kind of around the area of our primary search,” he said. “We’re doing that both to deconflict with the FWC and Coast Guard search assets, particularly the aviation assets, but also to help us really add the volunteers as force multipliers to give us a broader search and an even greater ability to find him even if we were, you know, even if some of our initial assumptions were wrong, which in this case, because we know the exact time and the exact depth that he was at when he was last, we’re pretty certain that we have a solid datum, but we always put air ellipse around that to capture even the potential that he’s outside of our initial look of our initial area.”

Vlaun said he was holding onto hope that Obi is alive and floating in the ocean.

“Everybody is looking,” he said. “And we are still there. This is an active search. And we have the hearts, and you know, we certainly are, we have the family in our hearts and minds today.”

At noon, Vlaun said the search for Obi has covered nearly 1,500 square miles and search conditions remain favorable.


About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.