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Federal agents scour 1,000-square-mile swath of ocean in search for missing diver

US Customs & Border Protection helping look for Timothy Obi

The U.S. Coast Guard is leading the search for a missing diver but is getting help from several agencies, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Tuesday marked the fourth day of the search for 36-year-old Timothy Obi. The father of three and husband was spearfishing 46 miles off the coast of Mayport on Saturday when he disappeared. He was diving with two friends but didn’t come back up.

On Tuesday, News4Jax took off with an elite CBP team as it flew offshore, searching for Obi. Three federal agents searched a 1,000-square-mile swath of open ocean, flying up to 100 miles offshore and as far north as Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia.

DOING THE MOST: Flew 1,000 square miles off the coast of Mayport today with US Customs and Border Protection agents....

Posted by WJXT4 Vic Micolucci on Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The team was in a brand new plane with top-of-the-line technology. Agents used the radar, which is on the belly of the plane, to find targets and then they used extremely powerful cameras to zoom in and see what the targets are. They also used infrared technology to look for heat.

“That’s kind of the goal today. We go out. We let the radar do what it does. We find out what each one of those target pop-ups has. Once you’re able to eliminate all of them, we are satisfied and we say, ‘Hey, we have seen everything that we possibly could’ve seen given the seascape,’” said Special Agent B.G., with CBP’s Air and Marine Operations. The special agents usually work drug smuggling and human trafficking cases, so because of this, News4Jax is not identifying them by name.

IMAGES: CBP team searches for missing diver

They found a lot of possibilities from boats to birds. Debris like Mylar balloons can look like a swimmer and slow down the search.

B.G. said it would “mean the world to us” to find Obi alive.

“That our efforts weren’t in vain and to reunite him,” B.G. said. “We’re gonna work diligently to do so.”

The team flew above search crews on boats, including a Coast Guard cutter, police, firefighters and volunteers looking for the beloved diver.

The agents also zoomed in on offshore platforms -- structures a swimmer could feasibly climb up on.

“When we have search and rescue, should it come up, we take it very personally. I’d like to reflect and see what would I be doing right now if I was his wife, I was his kids, how would I feel? So we act accordingly,” said B.G.

The agents said they’re going to work as hard as they can to hopefully find Obi. They’re in constant communication with Coast Guard and the other resources that are out looking for him.


About the Author:

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