A day fishing trip turned tragic for a Florida family that lost three members at once, including a 9-year-old.
According to CBS Miami, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Deputy Fernandas Jones; his stepfather, Willis Bell; a cousin, Robert Stewart; and his 9-year-old son, Jaiden, all went on a fishing trip on the Intracoastal Waterway on Sunday. When the party did not return, Jones’ wife called the authorities.
The U.S. Coast Guard, the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department, and officers from several sheriff’s offices, including Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties, launched a full-scale search in the reportedly rough seas.
“It was difficult at night, especially with the rough conditions,” said U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Randy Ryan. “It was dark, which made it difficult.”
By Monday morning the grim news started to roll in. The Martin County Sheriff’s Office announced on Twitter that one body had been found near the House of Refuge museum. Another tweet then said that two more bodies had been found in the St. Lucie Inlet, along with a sole survivor. That survivor was Stewart, the cousin, who was found walking along the beach. He was taken to the hospital in good condition.
“The survivor said he tried to keep his hand on the 9-year-old. [The boy] was wearing a life vest, but with the rough conditions, it would have been impossible to save the boy,” Martin County Sheriff William Snyder told the station.
According to WPEC, Stewart told authorities that the group ran into trouble around 9 a.m. when the boat started taking in water. The boat, he said, sank almost immediately.
CBS Miami reported that the boat was found near St. Lucie Inlet shortly after all three bodies were discovered.
Jones had been a deputy with the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office for the past two years. He had previously served on the Miami-Dade police force for 20 years.
The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office tweeted out an image of Jones early Monday, saying, “Today, we lost a father, a son, a friend, a hero. Deputy Fernandas Jones, we have the watch from here, brother. RIP.”