PASS-A-GRILLE (FOX 13) - The search continues for two missing boaters in the rough waters of Pass-A-Grille Channel Wednesday morning.
Search and rescue crews covered more than 400 miles by Wednesday night in the ongoing effort to find two men missing from a local charter boat.
One of them was a Chinese foreign exchange student from Colorado State University. The other was a crew member from the vessel - called the Jaguar.
Search teams said they still held hope Wednesday night that the two would be found alive. A close friend of the crew member, Andrew Dillman, said she is not surprised he jumped in to try and help the student.
"We've been best friends for years," Victoria Klotz told FOX 13 News.
She says she and Andrew Dillman drove all the way to St. Pete from upstate New York, looking for a new life adventure. She says his position on the yacht was his dream job.
"What's so sad about this is he was dying to work on a yacht and he wanted me to do it with him," Klotz said.
The initial call for help came at about 6 p.m. Tuesday. Deputies say there were 15 Colorado State students - on spring break - onboard the the 71-foot yacht from Maximo Marina. But rough waters and high winds caused the trip to take a turn - resulting in one of the students and a boat crew member to become lost at sea.
The yacht was captained by Todd Davis. Sheriff Gualtieri says Davis anchored the boat because the waters beyond the pass were too rough.
At that point, there was a bit of dispute about what happened next. The students wanted to get in the water, despite the chop and currents. Gualtieri says the captain told them the water was too cold and rough to get in, but he did not tell them they could not get in.
The sheriff says it appears 21-year-old Jie Lou was one of five male students jumping into the water, then getting out and jumping again. On his third jump, Lou didn't come back up.
PCSO says the charter captain assisted the other four swimmers, while 27-year-old charter mate Andrew Dillman jumped in the water to assist Lou.
"He probably wasn't thinking, honestly. It's the kind of person he was, that just he sees someone in danger he'd do anything," Klotz said.
Deputies believe the two men were then caught in the fast-moving current. They were not wearing personal flotation devices.
The Coast Guard said rescue crews from Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and FWC were all helping to find the overboard boaters Tuesday night.
The search came at the end of a 24-hour busy period for search and rescue crews. Choppy waters across the Bay Area resulted in the rescue of 18 people Monday and Tuesday.
A small craft advisory had been put in place because of the rough conditions.
"Due to multiple conditions and weather, Coast Guard and partner agencies have assisted in saving 18 lives; seven people pulled from the water alone, and that's in the last 24 hours," said Petty Officer Michael De Nyse with the US Coast Guard. "The main takeaway here is to know your forecast before leaving the dock."