Search and Rescue

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Jeffrey Holmes was serving in the Florida National Guard in Iraq just one week ago. Tuesday he went hunting and fishing alone and never returned. Officials think he only made it about a mile down the Chipola River.

Wednesday, search and rescue teams searched for the river for any signs of him. Divers with the Gulf County Sheriff's Office and the Wewa Search and Rescue attempted to look for Jeffrey Holmes near the site where his empty boat was found Tuesday.

Gulf County police officials say Holmes left the Land's Landing boat ramp on the Chipola River around 7 a.m. Tuesday morning. According to officials, the empty boat was found just about a mile downriver from the boat ramp. The boat was still in gear and all three life vests were still on board.

Jeffrey's mother, Susan, says he and his brothers practically lived on the river.

"Since he was 12 years old, they had fished and camped and hunted on this river all of his life."

Wednesday morning the Bay County Sheriff's Office search dog, Zeus, alerted crews to an area near Holmes' empty boat. Divers had some difficulty searching because of the tree debris that can become dangerous in the swift current.

The divers came out of the water a little after noon Wednesday, and the crews began dragging the bottom of the river near the search site. The mayor of Wewa, Ray Dickens, says these are the times when the community of neighbors becomes family.

"Just a good boy. Just came back from Iraq last Friday, and you know something like this happens that you don't understand sometimes and makes it different, and something like this turns up and it's always bad, but we haven't give up."

Search crews promise not to give up either.