The Eckerd College campus was stunned Friday after a freshman drowned while paddle boarding with a group of about 20 friends in the intra coastal waterway between the school and Maximo Park.
Lt. Joel Granata, Deputy Fire Marshal with St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue, said Jessica Gartenberg, 18, fell off her board and was trying to make it back to the dock.
"[The dock attendant] looked away for just a minute and then she looked back into the water where she didn't see [Gartenberg] any longer," Granata said.
Rescue workers pulled the student from the water but weren't able to revive her.
Granata said Gartenberg wasn't wearing a life vest; she wasn't required to because she'd passed a college-required swim test.
"We definitely recommend a flotation device for any person swimming, especially paddle boarding, something like that," Granata said. "They can fall off and bang their head on the board. There are a lot of different reasons why somebody could drown and so we definitely recommend highly that they wear a flotation device."
Only freshmen are currently on campus right now; the rest of the 1,800 students will return to school in a little more than a week.
"We are such a small, close-knit community here at Eckerd, really we are a family," said Suzan Harrison, Eckerd College's Dean of Faculty. "The loss of one of our students is just devastating to us. We're heart-broken."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
Didn't find what you were looking for?