Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fishing trip on Hillsborough lake turns deadly when canoe tips over, drowning new dad

Eric Jenkins, 32, shown with his infant son, Terence, had a new hospital job. The father drowned Saturday.

WESLA RODGERS | Special to the Times

Eric Jenkins, 32, shown with his infant son, Terence, had a new hospital job. The father drowned Saturday.

TAMPA — Before he went onto Lake Ellen for a little fishing Saturday, things were looking up for Eric Jenkins.

He had just started a housekeeping job at University Community Hospital. He loved dancing his 7-week-old son, Terence, around the living room. And on shore, friends were setting up for a pizza party.

His fiancee, Wesla Rodgers, took the baby to the party early to see how the fishing was going. Looking onto the Carrollwood lake about 5:20 p.m., she saw Jenkins, 32, and a friend paddling a canoe they had borrowed toward shore.

Rodgers, 34, reached down for a camera. When she straightened up, she saw the canoe had tipped over and both men were in the water. Joe Louis Andrews Jr. was rescued. Jenkins drowned.

"He fought," Rodgers said Sunday. "He fought to stay up. He went under once. He was struggling and so was the other guy. He went under a second time. I didn't see him again.

"How helpless is that? To watch the love of your life slip away before you," she said. "It's a hard image to get out of your head."

From the lanai of his lakefront home, Joseph Fara Jr. looked out in time to see the two men splashing. They didn't look like the long-distance swimmers who sometimes train in the lake.

"It just didn't look right," he said. So Fara, 56, and his wife, Donna, put their 19-foot speedboat in the water.

By then, the canoe had sunk. Neither man had a life jacket, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Although Rodgers said Jenkins, a Navy veteran, was a good swimmer, he was wearing heavy work boots.

Andrews, 47, told deputies the men had been drinking before they went on the lake, sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway said. Rodgers said if Jenkins had anything, it wasn't much. Andrews declined to comment Sunday.

Seeing her fiance struggle, Rodgers threw off her shoes, handed the baby to someone and rushed to the edge of the water. As another woman held her back, she screamed for Jenkins to keep going or to float on his back.

Meanwhile, Fara sped to the spot and pulled Andrews onto the dive platform of his boat.

"He says, 'Help me! Help me! Help me! I'm going under,' " Fara said.

From shore, Rodgers yelled for Fara to dive in because someone else was in the water. He did, but Jenkins had disappeared.

Much of Lake Ellen is 15 to 18 feet deep, Fara said, but Jenkins drowned in a spot deeper than that. Deputy Andrew Lynch, a member of the sheriff's dive team, found his body on the lake bottom about an hour after he disappeared.

Both Jenkins and Andrews lived at the Countrywood Apartments, between the 52-acre lake and N Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood.

Jenkins grew up in Vineland, N.J., studied art in New York after leaving the Navy, where he was a quartermaster, and moved to Florida about three years ago.

He and Rodgers, who is from Port St. Lucie, moved to Tampa about 10 months ago.

Before going to work at the hospital, Jenkins had recorded and produced a hip-hop CD. But his passion was art, Rodgers said. He copyrighted his work under the name Diego Swift, made drawings for Lifespring Community Church, and created T-shirts celebrating his son's birth.

"It's tragic," neighbor Shaun Black said. "It's just crazy how things change in an instant."

Fishing trip on Hillsborough lake turns deadly when canoe tips over, drowning new dad 04/25/10 [Last modified: Sunday, April 25, 2010 10:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Police: 8 found dead in truck, 20 dire in immigrant smuggling case


    SAN ANTONIO — Authorities called to a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio overnight found eight people dead and 20 others in dire condition in the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer, in what police are calling a horrific case of immigrant smuggling.

    San Antonio police officers investigate the scene Sunday, July 23, 2017, where eight people were found dead in a tractor-trailer loaded with at least 30 others outside a Walmart store in stifling summer heat in what police are calling a horrific human trafficking case, in San Antonio. [Associated Press]
  2. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics


     Winner of the week

    Peter Antonacci. Gov. Rick Scott tapped his go-to utility player to lead his Florida job recruiting agency, Enterprise Florida, having previously picked him for his general counsel, to lead the South Florida Water Management District and to serve as Palm Beach state …

  3. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 19: A peregrina spends the whole day under the weather, and part of the day under the table


    Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Puente Villarente: 25.4 km, 7.5 hours (Total for Days 1-19 = 454 km (282 miles)

    This list pretty much sums up my day:

    Eat two bananas

    Walk 13.1 kilometers


    Walk 6.2 kilometers


    Eat half an apple

    Walk 6.1 kilometers

    Crash< …

  4. Storm routs Cleveland


    TAMPA — Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered two fumbles as the Storm routed Cleveland 57-27 Saturday night in its home regular-season finale at Amalie Arena.

  5. Miscue sends Rays to another stinging loss to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays gave away DJ Kitty onesies Saturday night. Then they gave away the game.

    Rays centerfielder Mallex Smith misses a drive hit by Adrian Beltre with two outs in the sixth, allowing the tying runs to score. Beltre puts Texas ahead 4-3 when he scores after two wild pitches.