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Deputy missing in St. Johns River after boating accident

Search underway in Putnam County


WELAKA, Fla. – Several agencies are searching for a Putnam County Sheriff's Office deputy missing in the St. Johns River after a boating accident early Friday.

According to the Sheriff's Office, a boat carrying two people struck a channel marker in the river about 4:42 a.m. near Welaka, causing one person to fall overboard. Authorities said she is 35-year-old deputy, but her name was not released.

Her fellow deputies say she is an experienced boater.

"She is very outgoing, an outstanding deputy, outstanding mother," said Sheriff Jeff Hardy. "Just not a call you want to get in the middle of the night."

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, Putnam County Fire Department and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission marine units are searching the river along Sportsman Drive.

The U.S. Coast Guard is sending a boat and a helicopter to join the search and a FWC helicopter is also headed to the area.

"The Sheriff's Office knows our reputation," Coast Guard Spokesman Stephen Lehmann said.  "We like to stay out there as long as possible to find the person alive,"

The Sheriff’s Office dive team is conducting underwater recovery operations as well.