PALM HARBOR, Fla. -
Inside a private marina off off Cyprus Street in Palm Harbor sits an empty boat dock. It's where 70-year-old John Patti docked his pontoon boat. Friends say one he took out often on Lake Tarpon. "He loved the boat, oh yeah," Alice Lawless, a neighbor and friend of Patti's said.
"We all know the lake, we all go out on the lake a lot. So yeah, he was familiar with the lake," Roy Carlson said. He lives directly upstairs from Patti and was a good friend of his.
Saturday afternoon a normal day on the lake took a terrifying turn. While boating with three other friends, Patti's little dog. a yorkie named Rascal; jumped off the boat and into the water. Pattie dove in after him, saving his beloved pet. "Oh he loved his dog, yeah he did,' Lawless said.
"He usually takes his dog with him boating, and it's usually on a leash; so I'm not sure how it got off the leash," Carlson said.
Even though Patti saved Rascal he couldn't save himself. Friends say he went underwater and never reappeared. Dive teams were called in and searched the waters all night Saturday and Sunday morning. "All of Lake Tarpon is very murky underneath. There's a lot of mush underneath the water," Pinellas County Sheriff's spokesperson Cristen Rensel said.
A little over 12 hours after Patti went missing deputies say they got a call from someone who spotted something suspicious in Brooker Creek just off Lake Tarpon. When they searched the creek, that's where they found Patti's body. "We're going to sure miss him," Carlson said.
Neighbors and friends say Pati was a friend to everyone. "John was just a great guy. He was always willing to help anybody out anyway he could," Carlson said.
Now all they're left with are memories and an empty boat dock. "He loved boating," Carlson said. "Very unfortunate this has to happen."