The Jacksonville Coast Guard announced Tuesday the search for a missing diver would be suspended after diving equipment belonging to the missing diver was found with damage from a “marine predator.”
Timothy Obi, 37, was reported missing Saturday around 12:15 p.m. Authorities quickly launched a rescue mission with the help of a Station Mayport rescue crew and an Air Station Savannah helicopter crew. Searches lasted more than three days and spanned more than 3,800 square nautical miles, according to the Coast Guard.
Diving equipment belonging to Obi was found by a diver Tuesday afternoon roughly 250 yards from Obi’s original dive location.
“This afternoon I have made the determination based on new information to suspend the search for Mr. Timothy Obi,” Capt. Mark Vlaun, commander of the Jacksonville Coast Guard said in a statement. “Earlier today, the Coast Guard received a report from a volunteer dive boat indicating that they had located damaged diving gear. The Obi family confirmed that the gear belonged to Mr. Timothy Obi.”
“The location and condition of the gear are consistent with a suspected encounter with a marine predator,” Vlaun continued.
A ray of light shines above the ocean shortly after the vigil ended. pic.twitter.com/Gt1aaYCYdo
— Kailey Tracy (@KaileyTracy) July 14, 2021
But one of Obi’s friends who was involved in the search efforts disputes claims from the Coast Guard that Obi died from some sort of aquatic predator attack, according to First Coast News. (RELATED: First-Grade Teacher Stepped Out For ‘Suspicious’ Phone Call At Restaurant, And Then Vanishes)
“All the gear was together,” Holden Harris reportedly said. “The way everything was altogether really isn’t consistent with a potential shark attack. So the way the Coast Guard worded their statement implies that the cause of death might have been a shark attack, and we certainly don’t know what it was, but I could very strongly indicate that it wasn’t the case.”
Harris said while sharks may have been involved after Obi died, he believes there could have been a medical emergency of some kind.
“What seems most likely to me is that there was some sort of medical emergency, and the way he hit the ground with everything intact, right in the same place, means he was probably unconscious or deceased at that point. I think what happened, and what would be reasonable, is that sharks came later.”
Vlaun later said in a tweet the Coast Guard would not make any statement about Obi’s cause of death because “the gear was found in such a way that provided conclusive evidence that there was no longer a reasonable change of a successful search.”
Follow up to questions we are receiving: the USCG is not making any statement as to cause of death. The gear was found in such a way that provided conclusive evidence that there was no longer a reasonable change of a successful search. I sincerely apologize for any confusion.
— Mark Vlaun (@mvlaun) July 14, 2021