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Body found off Shell Key identified as missing Chinese student

Published Mar. 23, 2017

ST. PETE BEACH — Authorities have recovered the body of the missing Chinese college student who jumped from a charter boat last week and was swept into the Gulf of Mexico along with another man.

A boater found the body of Jie Luo, 21, shortly before 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday floating in Bunces Pass, just south of Shell Key Preserve. Pinellas County sheriff's Marine Unit deputies recovered the body and were able to identify him as the missing charter boat passenger.

The body of Andrew Charles Dillman, 27, who jumped in after Jie when he appeared to be struggling in the water, was found on Monday.

Dillman was a crew member aboard the Jaguar, a 71-foot vessel chartered March 14 by a group of Chinese college students visiting Florida. Fourteen were Colorado State University students and one was studying at Stony Brook University in New York.

The waves were too rough to sail into the gulf, so the captain anchored the boat near the north end of Shell Key. Five students jumped in to swim, one of them Jie. Four made it back safely, but not Jie.

Seeing the student was having trouble swimming back to the boat, authorities said, Dillman jumped in to try to rescue him. Neither was wearing a life jacket, and both were apparently caught in the outbound current taking them into the gulf.

Helicopters scoured the gulf for three days while boats plowed through the water, hunting the missing pair. Local, state and federal agencies conducted 39 searches totaling 80 aircraft and surface hours that covered more than 1,577 square miles — an area larger than the state of Rhode Island — before declaring Friday that the search and rescue mission had become a recovery operation.

Contact Craig Pittman at Follow @craigtimes.