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Officials: Man rescues child then swept out in tide forces

By Staff | Jul 10, 2019

The body of a missing man, who was reportedly swept up in an outgoing rip tide off of Upper Captiva yesterday evening after rescuing an 8-year-old from the same tide forces, has been recovered.

At approximately 5:45 p.m. July 9, the Upper Captiva Fire and Rescue District responded to a marine rescue call of six to eight people in the water and in distress, according to Fire Chief Jason Martin.

“Allegedly, a family was playing in the surf when they became surrounded by tide forces that trapped them,” he said in a statement. “Four of the family escaped, the fifth was a male in (his) mid 40s, who rescued an 8-year-old, but was then swept away in the outgoing rip tide and went missing.”

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office – one of several agencies to respond to the call – reported that the family was walking along a curved sandbar on the shore of Upper Captiva. The mother was walking ahead when she glanced back and found that her husband, Thomas Zakrewski, 46, of Georgia, and 8-year-old were struggling in the water.

The mother immediately jumped into the water and Zakrewski managed to pass the child to her, the LCSO continued in a statement. Zakrewski continued to struggle and disappeared in the water.

In addition to the LCSO, including its marine and aviation units, the other assisting agencies that responded were the Captiva Island Fire District, United States Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and city of Cape Coral. Units in Charlotte County were also en-route.

“Our fire boat was one of the first rescue vessels on-scene and assisted with the search late into the evening,” Captiva Island Fire District Fire Chief Jeff Pawul said.

According to Martin, after three-plus hours of searching, it became dark and the search efforts were augmented with divers from the U.S. Coast Guard. About an hour later, Zakrewski’s body was recovered by the U.S. Coast Guard and LCSO approximately one-half mile from the initial site of the incident.

No other injuries were witnessed or reported.

“Our deepest sympathies to the family,” Martin said.

The LCSO is conducting an investigation.

“Unfortunately, this incident did not have a favorable outcome for the family,” Pawul said. “We cannot stress enough the importance of being educated and cautious while swimming in rough conditions or walking on sandbars. These are very favorable conditions for both rip currents and tidal currents around the pass.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family in this difficult time,” he said.