John Patti from Pinellas County, Florida had drowned when he dove off his pontoon boat in an attempt to rescue his best furry friend, Rascal, who had fallen overboard while boating along Booker Creek in Lake Tarpon.
“He loved golfing. He loved people. He had a lot of good friends,” said Roy Carlson, a neighbor of Patti’s.
Patti and some friends, including hid dog Rascal, were on Patti’s pontoon boat Saturday afternoon.
“He usually takes his dog with him boating, usually on a leash. Not sure how he got off the leash, tricky dog,” said Carlson.
Cristen Rensel with the Pinellas Sheriff’s Office said, “Mr. Patti jumped in the water after the dog. He saved the dog. He went underwater. The people on the boat couldn’t find him. He disappeared.”
Dive teams were dispatched and searched well into the night. At around 8:15am, a park visitor spotted Mr. Patti’s body. He was located along Booker Creek just off the main Lake Tarpon area. Anyone familiar with boating in this area will tell you, this is not the place to jump off your boat and have a swim.
“The water here is very murky, very dark, a lot of debris underneath. Doesn’t make it safe for our divers. [It’s] hard to see,” said Rensel.
People frequently boating in that area say they won’t swim in that water because of the pollution, bacteria, and alligators in the water there.
Rensel said, “Our deputies say it appears to be an accident.” An autopsy by the medical examiner is to be performed to determine exact cause of death.
Even though Mr. Patti, a Buffalo, New York native managed to rescue Rascal, his human friends miss him badly.
“John was a great guy, willing to help anybody out anyway he could. A real good friend. We’re going to sure miss him,” said Carlson.