EAST LAKE — Sheriff's deputies have found the body of a 70-year-old man who went missing in Lake Tarpon on Saturday after he jumped off a pontoon boat to save his dog, which had fallen into the water.
John Patti of Palm Harbor was with three other people when he jumped off the boat just before 4 p.m., according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Patti returned his Yorkshire terrier, Rascal, safely to the boat but then disappeared underwater, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cristen Rensel said.
Searchers used helicopters, sonar and boats to look for Patti. The search was focused on the area of the lake near John Chesnut Sr. Park, at 2200 East Lake Road.
Authorities temporarily called off the search late Saturday because of low visibility, but resumed Sunday morning. Deputies found Patti's body at 8:15 a.m. near the Brooker Creek area of Lake Tarpon.
Patti's neighbor, Roy Carlson, 58, said Patti often went to the lake with friends and family. Carlson said he'd seen Patti in the community pool before, and he was not the best swimmer.
"He jumped in to save his dog," Carlson said, "and that's what he did."
The medical examiner will complete an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
"It appears to be accidental," Rensel said. "It is still under investigation how everything happened and the timing of everything that happened."
It is unclear how far away from the boat Patti was when he disappeared under the water, Rensel said.
Rensel encouraged people to be vigilant this Memorial Day weekend while out on the water. Boaters should carry the proper safety equipment on board and appoint a designated driver — whether for a boat or a car — if they are drinking.
Times news researcher Natalie Watson and staff writers Caitlin Johnston and Weston Phippen contributed to this report.
EDITORS NOTE: This article was changed to reflect the following correction — The name of John Chesnut Park was misspelled Sunday and Monday in articles about a 70-year-old man who drowned in Lake Tarpon after he jumped off a boat to save a dog that had fallen into the water.