FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A day out on the boat came to a tragic end for a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputy and three of his family members, including his own son.
Deputy Fernandez Jones, his son 9-year-old Jayden, Jones’ stepfather, Willis Bell, and a cousin, Robert Stewart, went fishing on the Intracoastal Waterway Sunday morning. The family left Sandsprit Park in Stuart around 8 a.m. in a 24-foot Sea Ray Laguna boat, according to WPEC.
When they failed to return, Jones’ wife called the authorities.
Just before getting the devastating news her husband and son were gone, Michelle Jones made a plea to find them.
“If it was someone he knew, he’d be out there. He’s good friendly person,” she said.
The U.S. Coast Guard, along with officers from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the state’s Fish and Wildlife department, launched an all-out search.
“It was difficult at night especially with the rough conditions,” said U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Randy Ryan. “It was dark which made it difficult.”
Monday morning the Martin County Sheriff’s Office put out on Twitter that the body of one of the missing had been found near the House of Refuge museum.
A second tweet said two more bodies had been found in the St. Lucie Inlet along with a survivor.
“I lost my best friend, you know,” a crying Eber Suazo said of Jones.
That sole survivor was Stewart who was found walking along the beach.
“The survivor said he tried to keep his hand on the 9 year old, he was wearing a life vest but with the rough conditions it would have been impossible to save the boy,” said Martin County Sheriff William Snyder.
Stewart was taken to the hospital and is listed in serious condition.
The sheriff’s office said the seas were choppy when the four went through the St. Lucie Inlet, heading for the open ocean.
Stewart told investigators they were in 80 feet of water at around 9 a.m. on Sunday when the boat began filling. After it became submerged, they clung to the side.
The boat was found near the inlet shortly after the three bodies were discovered.
Investigators are working to figure out why the boat sank.
Jones’ family said he was an experienced fisherman and had started taking his son on his fishing trips last year.
“He retired in Dade County. Bought one boat and then another. It’s what he loved doing,” said Jones’ cousin, Edwardo Fields.
“Jayden was a firecracker. He was real outgoing loved fishing like his dad,” said another cousin, Shanaris Frager.
His family can scarcely believe he’s gone – struggling to understand how a simple trip could turn so deadly so quickly.
Jones had been a deputy with the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office for the last two years.