CSU student, yacht crew member missing in Gulf of Mexico near Tampa

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PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. -- Two men, including a Colorado State University student, went missing during a boating excursion on Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said 15 students from CSU were on the 71-foot charter yacht in the Pass-A-Grille Channel off Shell Key near the Gulf of Mexico.

Five of the male students went swimming while the boat was anchored, but they encountered a strong current that pulled them away.

Four of the students were able to swim back to the yacht, but 21-year-old Jie Lou could not.

A crew member, 27-year-old Andrew Dillman of New York, jumped into the choppy water to help Jie, but both were then reported missing about 6:10 p.m. EDT.

Neither was wearing a flotation device.

The Coast Guard said 22 searches covering 419 square miles have been conducted in the search for the men.

"Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Andrew and Jie during this difficult time," said Lt. Jason Holstead, the command duty officer at Sector St. Petersburg. "We continue work closely with our partners to search for Andrew and Jie. All of us have them and their family in our thoughts and prayers."

Several boats and a helicopter are involved in the search by the sheriff's office, the Coast Guard and the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

"(W)e are very concerned to hear of what has happened in Florida," a CSU spokesman said.

"The thoughts and hope of our CSU community are for the safety of our students involved in this incident, with the missing student and charter mate member and families and friends of those involved, and for the safety of rescue crews who are involved in the search."