MAYPORT, Fla. – Help came from so many different areas: the U.S. Coast Guard, Jacksonville Fire Rescue, the Sheriff’s Office, federal agents, and dozens upon dozens of volunteers -- every one of them with the hope to find missing diver Timothy Obi alive and safe.
Late Tuesday afternoon, those hopes ended when the Coast Guard announced the search was off after Obi’s damaged diver gear was found by volunteer searchers. The condition and location indicated Obi might have had an encounter with a marine predator, authorities said. The man who found the gear, who is a marine biologist and Obi’s friend, said he believes, based on the evidence he saw, that Obi had a medical emergency before any encounter with a predator.
While neither belief in the disappearance of Obi has been confirmed, it is undoubtedly clear that the 36-year-old is extraordinarily loved by his family, friends and community. Now that the search for Obi is over, attention has swiftly turned to his wife and the three young sons he left behind.
An account to raise funds for the Obi family has been posted online, with thousands of donors extending heartfelt condolences.
“Timmy Obi was a loving husband to Lizzy and father to Davis, Kyle, and Brooks. He had a passion for surfing, fishing, and diving. He was loved by so many and will be missed very much. Funds raised will be used to support the family’s immediate needs and for a college fund for his three boys. Lizzy and the boys have found strength in the ongoing support and prayers from family, friends, and the community,” a message posted to the fundraising site reads.
On Tuesday night, a large vigil was held in Neptune Beach where friends and family gathered to remember Obi. Everyone News4Jax spoke with had wonderful things to say about Obi and the way he lived his life.
“He is a great guy. He’s a reliable guy -- someone you can count on to be a friend and always be there,” friend Holden Harris said. “It’s a strong piece of solace that he passed doing what he absolutely wanted to do.”
Another friend is still coping with the hurt of losing Obi.
“For something like this to happen, it just really hurts... For this to happen, it’s truly a tragedy,” Christopher Borger said. “My thoughts, prayers, and sympathies are going out to his family”
Others promised never to forget.
“We love you, Lizzy, and our hearts go out to you and the boys. We will not forget Timmy,” Mary and Alex McGauley wrote on social media.
“Sending all the love and light possible to the whole Obi family during this time. Timmy will always and forever be remembered,” Nicole Conte wrote.
The 36-year-old will be remembered as a family man, a loving husband, father of three boys, and as a caring role model, family and friends said during the vigil.