Bradford County Sheriff’s Office found and identified the body of James Eddie Curtis, Jr. on Monday evening after the 22-year-old died in a boating accident on Little Lake Santa Fe.
Maj. Brad Smith, of the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office, said Curtis jumped in the lake and drowned in an attempt to save his dogs that fell into the lake. Curtis had been boating with his girlfriend, her eight-year-old child and five dogs.
Sheriff officers conducted the search in coordination with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation. The investigation is being carried out by the Alachua County’s Sheriff’s Office, and an autopsy will determine the cause of death.
Curtis worked at Downtown Detailing in Keystone Heights, according to a family member and his Facebook profile.
His aunt, Brittney Crawford, described Curtis as resilient and as one of the most genuine people you can meet. She said he enjoyed scalloping and fishing on the nature coast of Florida, a getaway from his life in Keystone Heights.
“He’s going to be missed,” Crawford said. “I’m very thankful for him.”
Ashley Belcher, a friend of Curtis, learned of his death from Facebook. She works at the Florida Cracker Kitchen restaurant, across the street from the detailing shop. Belcher said the community is devastated about the news.
“He was just in the restaurant last week and its really weird,” she said. “I think it is just sad. Sad for his friends and sad for his family.”
She said Curtis was known in the community as someone who was happy and willing to help others.