Clearwater man drowns while fishing with brother

His sibling calls 911 after being unable to find the Mexican native off the Courtney Campbell.

Published August 25, 2006

TAMPA - Feliciano Itehua Acahua was not a good swimmer.

Still, he wanted to help his brother and a friend who were fishing Wednesday night near the Courtney Campbell Parkway by wading out into the water and casting a net to catch small fish for them to use as bait.

But a little after 10 p.m., just a stone's throw from shore, his brother, Josendo Etehoa, saw him throw the net and then slip into the water with it, Tampa police said.

The 24-year-old never resurfaced.

Tampa police spokesman Larry McKinnon said Etehoa, 17, tried to save his brother, but when he couldn't locate him, he called 911.

"The brother was extremely upset," McKinnon said, adding that Etehoa is from Mexico and does not speak English fluently. "He said he waded out there to try and find him."

McKinnon said Tampa police responded quickly with a helicopter equipped with a powerful searchlight and an infrared light but could not find the victim.

The Coast Guard also responded, as did Tampa Fire Rescue. About 50 minutes later, its divers found Acahua's body near where Etehoa said he last saw his brother.

McKinnon said the area where the accident occurred is "littered with holes" and that the victim could have stepped into one of them and gone under.

There was no indication that the victim got tangled up in his net, McKinnon said.

Police had identified the victim as Feliciano Etehoa.

But Hillsborough County medical examiner's spokesman Dick Bailey said his name was Feliciano Itehua Acahua.

Records show that Acahua lived in Clearwater.

Although autopsy results will not be available for six to eight weeks, Bailey said he thinks the death was an accidental drowning.

Guili Mendoza, 27, a friend of Acahua's, said he and others are looking for help to send the body to Veracruz, Mexico, where Acahua was from.

"We're making boxes to put at stores to collect donations, but in reality, it's a lot of money," Mendoza said.

Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or 727 445-4153.