APOLLO BEACH — A father and his 3-year-old son died after being swept away by strong currents on Friday night, deputies say. The focus on Saturday turned to finding the man who jumped in to try to save them.
But hours later, there was still no sign of Kristoff Murray, 27.
The chances that Murray could survive were slim, Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said at a Friday night news conference. But the sheriff said the search would continue for several more hours, and it did on Saturday.
“We’re gonna give him every ounce of hope we have by staying out here,” Chronsiter said.
A sheriff’s spokesperson said the agency scaled back the search Saturday night, but boats would still conduct “spot checks.”
Murray was with Tjonique Gray, who told Spectrum Bay News 9 that the family trying to stay hopeful.
“I hope he’s somewhere out there,” she said. “He’s a pretty good swimmer. We’re pretty hopeful. His mom is pretty hopeful. We’re just hoping for the best.”
The incident started about 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve at 6773 Surfside Blvd. The sheriff said a woman called 911 to report that her boyfriend had jumped into the water to help a man and child who were being swept away by strong currents there.
The man and child were in distress, deputies were told.
The Sheriff’s Office sent several units — a helicopter, boats and its diving team — to search the area. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue and the Coast Guard also sent help.
Searchers recovered the man’s body 90 minutes later, about 9 p.m. The child was found minutes later and rushed to a hospital, deputies say, but was later pronounced dead there.
But Murray wasn’t found that night. His family could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
“Our hearts break for the father and son who lost their lives tonight,” Chronister said in a statement issued Saturday. “The horrible sight led a selfless stranger to sacrifice his own life, in an attempt to save them.”
The sheriff also warned people to be safe in the water. The sheriff said no swimming signs are posted at the beach.
“It’s summertime in Florida. It’s hot. We all want to be in the water,” Chronister said. “We want to cool off. But please, when you have areas that are clearly marked ‘No swimming’ it’s for a reason.”
Times staff writer Justine Griffin contributed to this report.