16-year-old’s canoeing death a reminder of water safety importance

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – As crews searched throughout Monday for a teenager who disappeared after his canoe overturned in the St. Johns River, watersports experts are reminding people take steps to stay safe.

The 16-year-old was in a canoe with two friends Sunday around 8 p.m. when it overturned, according to a report from the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Robert Hardwick said investigators found the teen’s body around 1 p.m. Monday.

He identified the teen as Riley Teixeira.

RELATED: Body of missing teen found after canoe flips in St. Johns River, sheriff says

“This is not the outcome we wanted,” Hardwick said.

Dozens of searchers from a number of agencies scoured the river Sunday night into Monday. The search was a somber reminder for people about what can happen when things go wrong.

“It is preventable,” said Andy Fraden, who owns All Wet Spots in Jacksonville and is on on the Jacksonville Waterways Commission. He showed News4JAX a number of life jackets for paddle sports, which, he said, can make all the difference in a scenario like this, especially after dark.

“You get disoriented, and you think that’s the shore, and you see a light, and it could be a boat. Not the actual shoreline,” he explained. “And you are confused and you’re swimming the wrong direction.”

According to Florida law, everyone on a kayak or canoe must have a personal flotation device that’s easily accessible. Anyone under age 6 must wear it.

Fraden said everyone should consider wearing a jacket, even if they are good swimmers. He reminds people to have a light after dark, a whistle and a phone in a dry bag — simple steps that could save a life and prevent a tragedy.

Fraden said it’s important that the jacket fits. He said it’s especially important for children.

A captain with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said officers were investigating and did not determine the circumstances. He did not provide details about safety measures on the canoe.

He said the depth was between 6 to 8 feet.

Rules for watercraft under 16 feet from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

  • One approved Type I, II or III for each person on board or being towed on water skis etc.
  • Must be USCG-approved. Must be in serviceable condition. Must be properly stored
  • NOTE: A Type V hybrid may substituted for any Type I, II, or III device, but must be worn whenever the vessel is underway and the person is not in the cabin or other enclosed area.
  • Class A: Every person on board under the age of 6 must wear an approved Type I, II, or III while the vessel is underway.
  • Personal Watercraft (PWC): Everyone on or operating a PWC must wear an approved Type I, II, III or V PFD. Inflatable PFDs are prohibited.
  • Water Skier: Every person skiing or aquaplaning must wear an approved Type I, II or III PFD. Inflatable PFDs are prohibited.

About the Author:

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