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Missing swimmer, 17, found dead off Florida shore after drills with swim team

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The body of a missing 17-year-old swimmer was recovered off the coast of Florida on Wednesday after the teen failed to return from drills with his team, authorities said.

The teen was identified as William Zhang, who was visiting from Quebec, Canada, with his swim team for a camp in Indian Shores, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said. 

Zhang was doing drills with his teammates in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Indian Shores when he was reported missing around 9 a.m., the sheriff’s office said. 

Rick Ross, a witness on the beach, told FOX13 Tampa that an adult who remained on shore had become concerned that the group was swimming too far out and waved them back to shore.

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“They all came in,” Ross said. “Then she ran up the hill and asked me for the address here. I said, ‘What for?’ She said, ‘There’s still one on the water.’”

Authorities immediately launched a search with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Indian Shores Police Department and Pinellas Suncoast Fire Rescue.

search and rescue team on beach

Just before 5:30 p.m., deputies with the Underwater Search and Recovery Team reported finding Zhang’s body.

The swim coaches told detectives that they checked for riptides and hazards before the swim team entered the water, the sheriff’s office said.

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rescue boat

Pinellas Suncoast Fire Rescue Chief Jeffrey Davidson, however, described the waters as choppy with visible rip currents on Wednesday morning.

“Some other people thought they had a visual on the other person, but the seas were so rough and there are so many buoys out there, it was hard to distinguish if it was an actual person,” he told the station.

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Zhang’s death is not considered suspicious, according to the sheriff’s office, though the investigation remains ongoing.

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