A 54-year-old Tallahassee man, on a day trip with his fiancée to Dog Island Sunday afternoon, apparently drowned after a picnic the two shared together.
The body of Patrick Lambert Salmon was spotted from a private plane circling overhead and recovered by sheriff’s deputies at about 4:39 p.m. following a large-scale effort by boats from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, and the Coast Guard, along with several private boaters.
Sheriff A.J. Smith said Salmon and his fiancée, Michelle Dunlap, that morning had set out from Carrabelle aboard his 15-foot sailboat, the Potter, when the boat ran aground on a sandbar. The couple waded to shore, shared a picnic lunch and then headed back about 2:30 p.m. to dislodge the boat and return to their sailing.
“The tide had risen,” said Smith. “As they started coming back he got in trouble. He got in some type of distress. His fiancée said he yelled for help and that was the last she knew and he drifted off. She immediately called for help.”
Dunlap's call to 9-1-1 dispatch triggered an immediate response from the sheriff’s office, as Capt. Dwayne Coulter and Deputy Wade Blevins headed out in the department’s watercraft, joining with others boats from FWC and the Coast Guard as well as several civilian personnel.
Blevins said that as the skies turned darker, John Mitchell and his wife decided to get back into their plane parked at the Dog Island landing strip and return to Moultrie, Georgia. As they flew overhead, they noticed the activity in the water and flew by to see what was going on. After the two spotted the body in the water, Mitchell’s wife used her cellphone to notify 9-1-1.
Blevins and Coulter transported Salmon’s body to the shore where Smith met with Dunlap. “She was in total shock,” said Smith.
A volunteer victim advocate from Lanark Village spoke with her, and Smith was able to secure dry clothes from a local couple for Dunlap, who was soaking wet from the ordeal.
Smith said the chief medical examiner performed an autopsy Tuesday which listed the cause of death as drowning, but noted that Salmon had severe heart issues that may have been a factor in his death.
In addition to his fiancee, Salmon is survived by his three daughters, Kiera, Brittany, and Grace; his brother Sean, and his sisters Cate, Eleanor, Margaret, Mary, and Cecily. Funeral arrangements are in the process of being finalized, and are likely to be at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Tallahassee on Tuesday, June 12 at 10 a.m.