Family shocked by death of canoeist in Orange Park pond

Richmond Gard-Chambers left behind toddler daughter

By Adrienne Moore , Heather Leigh - Reporter

ORANGE PARK, Fla. - Loved ones of Richmond Gard-Chambers expressed heartbreak and shock on Monday after the 26-year-old's body was found in an Orange Park pond.

The grisly discovery was made after two days of searching by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission crews, Clay County rescue teams and the dive team with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. Investigators said the canoe Gard-Chambers was riding in with two other people flipped, and he never resurfaced.

One of his companions, a woman, was able to swim to shore and another man in the capsized canoe was rescued Saturday morning.

Gard-Chambers had a 16-month-old daughter, Mila (pictured), with his former girlfriend, Heather Boyd.

"It's just going to be super hard, and I'm just not going to know how to tell her what happened," Boyd said. "She's not going to know him like I did."

Boyd said Gard-Chambers' daughter was the center of his universe, and he was in the process of moving closer to her in North Carolina, so he could be more involved in her life.

"She looks so much like him to me, that it's hard to look at her," Boyd said.

Boyd (pictured below) said she was coming home from a friend's wedding when she heard the news that Gard-Chambers, who was known as "Ricky" to his friends, had died.

"I was told his canoe flipped over and that he drowned," Boyd said. "And that was very shocking to me because he was always around water."

An FWC officer found Gard-Chambers' body early Monday morning in the pond adjoining the Landmark at Vista Grande apartments in Orange Park. Officials said the search for Gard-Chambers was hampered by heavy vegetation.

"The hydrilla coverage in the retention pond was very thick, and it was impeding the search for this person," said Karen Parker, spokeswoman for the FWC. "It was so thick they couldn't see the bottom of the pond, and they had no idea where this gentlemen was."

Boyd said Gard-Chambers felt at home and at peace on the water with a passion for fishing and all things muscle cars. She said she can't help but think about the little girl that "Ricky" won't see become a woman.

"Our first day of school or just any little milestone she gets to do, he won't get to see that," Boyd said.

There's still no word on when funeral services will be held, but Boyd said she plans on being there with her daughter — to say one final goodbye.

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