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Former Dalkeith fire chief presumed drowned

A 76-year-old Dalkeith man is presumed drowned in the Apalachicola River, after the search-and-rescue operation that began Monday afternoon has been turned into a recovery operation.

Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison said Tuesday that members of his department, along with units from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Wewahitchka Search and Rescue, and the Southwest Panhandle Search and Rescue K-9 Team continued the search all day an area near Battle Bend for William “Bill” Davis, Jr.,

“We have a large area on the river we’re covering with boats and sonar,” he said. “We’ll all have to start dragging that area as well, and we’re dealing with very deep water. We’ll get out later in the day.”

This map shows the approximate area where the east-west Chipola River, at center, flows into the Apalachicola, near where the mishap occurred.

Harrison said the epicenter of the search is about one mile north of where the Chipola River comes together with the Apalachicola, on the south end near Dalkeith.

The sheriff said the office received the call around 4:25 p.m. CT Monday, after the man was seen jumping from his houseboat into the river to retrieve a boat that had become untied and was drifting away. He said the witness observed the man was able to reach the boat but was unable to pull himself inside of it.

Davis' boat was located by a citizen that heard the call for help a short time later. Because the sheriff had the help of a boat not far from the site, rescue was on the scene within five minutes. Law enforcement, along with search and rescue volunteers, staged at Listers Landing and started searching for Davis.

Harrison said rising waters and swift current prevent sending in a FWC dive team, or one from neighboring departments. “It’s too dangerous for divers until we get a pinpoint location,” he said.

"Davis is a beloved member of the community and served as the fire chief for the Dalkeith Volunteer Fire Department. Our hearts ache for the Davis family,” said Harrison, “Mr. Bill was known by many in our community and was a tireless servant.”

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office at (850) 227-1115.