The U.S. Coast Guard searched for a lost boater in the Caloosahatchee River near the Edison Bridge all Sunday night.
40-year-old Pedro Pablo Ramirez launched a 16-foot aluminum john boat from the Davis Boat Ramp in Fort Myers Shores, but waves east of the Edison Bridge overtook the boat.
Ramirez was on the boat with his stepfather, who was pulled from the water by another boater. But Ramirez was too far out by that time.
The conditions were windy and cold, with choppy waters, but that didn’t stop Austin Zajack from jumping on his own little john boat and paddling out to help.
Zajack says he heard the man screaming for help. Zajack looked outside and saw the man bobbing around in the water with a lifejacket on. Neighbors caught the rescue on camera.
He paddled out 250 yards, battling the waves, and finally got the man safely into the boat.
Zajack says the man was distressed.
“He was screaming a lot, and he said ‘mi hijo,’ which… I take a little bit of Spanish, so that means ‘my son,’ so I know he was looking for his son out there and I did look around to see if there was anybody else, but I didn’t see anybody,” Zajack said. “Being a new father, it has been really hard to think about that all night because I can only imagine what he is going through right now.”
“We had already called the authorities, he was still screaming pretty violently. So I said, you know, this, this isn’t enough is enough, you know, I gotta go down and get him. And so that’s when I just sprang into action and came down and grabbed the boat and went out,” Zajack said.
But by the time Austin got to Pedro’s stepfather, Pedro was nowhere in sight. His family thinks he might be hurt somewhere along the sand banks.
“Of course, he tried to swim, I’m sure to get to the side. And so everyone needs to be looking on the side. We’ve been told that they are looking, you know, in the water, but no one’s looking on land right now,” sister-in-law, Heather Knickerbock said.
So on Monday, his siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews headed out on foot.
“We’re gonna group up in twos and go see on the outer banks to see if we see him,” the vitim’s sister, Olivia Arrilaga said.
They believe deeply in their hearts Pedro is alive and still out there.
“He’s strong. He’s like, he’s has willed to live. He has an 8-year-old daughter. And… yeah, we just want him home,” Olivia Arrilaga said.
Zajack says his thoughts and prayers are with the family as the Coast Guard continues to look for Pedro Ramirez.
Fort Myers Police Sgt. Edward Cutie says this is a highly urgent search.
“It’s obviously severe; it’s very rare,” Cutie said. “We take it seriously. We’ve had all the agencies in the area—ourselves, our marine unit, the fire departments, Cape Coral Police Department, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, FWC and the coast guard had been on the water for hours searching, especially with the weather tonight. We’ve taken it very seriously. And we’ve exhausted everything we could to this point, and the coast guard is going to continue from here.”
If you see anything on either side of the bridge, you’re asked to call Fort Myers Police Department immediately.