Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Public safety

Body of missing Trinity man found in the Keys

The body of Brian Kowalski, a Trinity man who jumped from a boat to save a child on Monday near Johnson Key, was found about 11:45 a.m. Wednesday.

A Florida Fish and Wildlife helicopter pilot spotted the body near Johnson Key, according to FWC spokeswoman Carli Segelson, and contacted detectives from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office and the medical examiner's office.

"I'm sad and relieved at the same time," said Steve Weir, a longtime friend of Kowal­ski's who was boating with him Monday when the accident happened. "I'm glad they actually found him. I'm glad that there will be some closure."

On Monday, Weir and Kowalski took turns snorkeling, and two boys, Jonathan Weir, 8, and Caden Wolfe, 7, swam behind the boat while holding on to a trailing rope. Caden climbed back in the boat first. When Jonathan tried to pull himself up with the rope, Kowalski's 10-year-old daughter, Erin, said, it got caught in the propeller, and the current started pulling him away.

Kowalski, 39, jumped in after the boy. Weir said he surfaced from his snorkeling and noticed the boat wasn't moving. As he swam toward the boat, he heard yelling. He got to his son Jonathan, who told him Kowalski had let go of him and was floating face down in the water.

Weir and Kowalski have been diving together for years, Weir said, and he thought it strange that Kowalski could drown.

"He knows what to do in those situations," he said.

Michelle Andrews, Kowalski's former partner of 10 years, also said she doesn't think Kowalski simply drowned.

"I'm pretty sure he had a heart attack," he said. "He had high blood pressure and cholesterol problems."

An autopsy will be done in about two days.

Erin, his daughter, said she was still in disbelief over what happened.

"He was an amazing person," she said.

Andrews is worried about how her daughter will cope, but said Erin is strong.

"My biggest fear is how she's going to handle this. What do you say to your baby when her whole world is just crumbling," she said. "What do you say?"

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