Pinellas Marine deputies searching for two men in Pass-A-Grille Channel near Gulf of Mexico

Missing are Andrew Dillman, 27 and Jie Lou, 21
Posted at 4:20 AM, Mar 15, 2017

Marine deputies with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office continue searching the waters off Pass-A-Grille for two missing boaters. 

At approximately 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14, deputies were called to the scene after two men were reported missing in the water. The rough seas made it hard for the men to get back on their boat. Deputies responded to the scene and began searching for the two adults.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said 15 students from Colorado State University chartered a 71 foot boat from Florida Yachts Charter on Tuesday.

The Charter Captain told investigators the waters were too rough to go out into the Gulf, so he anchored in the pass.

Gualtieri said five male students decided to go swimming off the side of the boat while it was anchored, but only four were able to swim back to the boat.

RELATED: Coast Guard Documents: Charter boat that lost boaters had too many people on board

Charter mate Andrew Dillman, 27, from St. Petersburg jumped in the water to help Jie Lou, 21, a foreign exchange student from China.

Neither had a flotation device.

Coast Guard crews and partner agencies have conducted 22 searches over 419 square miles. 

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is being assisted in the search by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Fish and Wildlife Commission. Several boats and a helicopter are involved in the search.

"It's brutal to find what you're looking for in these types of situations," said Lt. Paul Simpson, Incident Management Chief with the Coast Guard.

"Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Andrew and Jie during this difficult time," said Lt. Jason Holstead, the command duty officer at Sector St. Petersburg. "We continue work closely with our partners to search for Andrew and Jie, all of us have them and their family in our thoughts and prayers."

ABC Action News reached out to Colorado State University about the incident. They released the following statement: 

The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority and we are very concerned to hear of what has happened in Florida. We are gathering details and when we learn more from law enforcement, we will share information that we are able to provide. The thoughts and hope of our CSU community are for the safety of our students involved in this incident, with the missing student and charter mate and families and friends of those involved, and for the safety of rescue crews who are involved in the search.



The Coast Guard conducted 10 rescues on Florida's west coast due to conditions on Tuesday.


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