Putnam County FL: On Monday, February 20, 2017, at approximately 9:15 pm, Putnam County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the Welaka boat ramp in reference to the report of two boaters who were several hours over due in returning from an outing on the river. Family members became concerned and reported the men missing when the two approximately 70-year-old men had not returned from an excursion up the Ocklawaha River which is a tributary of the St Johns River. The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit responded with a boat. A call for assistance also went out to the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) who provided a boat to assist the Sheriff’s Office with the search.
Shortly after midnight, the FWC boat operated by Wildlife Officer Matt Jones located the missing men where their small boat had capsized in the Ocklawaha River. Officer Jones found the men near where the river is by the State Road 19 Bridge. By that time the men had been in the water for approximately 3 hours while attempting to right their vessel. They were returned safely to the Welaka boat ramp where they were checked and released by rescue personnel.
One item of interest is the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit deputy involved in the search was Deputy Denis Jones, brother of FWC Officer Matt Jones. Sheriff Gator DeLoach said “The Jones Brothers certainly came through when the going was extremely tough last night. I know first-hand navigating the Ocklawaha is a challenge even in broad daylight. Doing it at night when lives might be at stake was a nightmare scenario. On behalf of both agencies and the Citizens of our County, I would like to thank Matt and Denis for their dedication and professionalism in a very difficult situation”.