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Missing man found dead

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May 10, 2004

Brooks County- Divers have recovered the body of a Brooks County man who drowned in the Withlacoochee River.

Twenty-year-old Justin Weldon was fishing when he slipped off a sandbar and was swept away by the swift current.

Divers geared up for what would become a difficult and tragic recovery mission. "It was a hard dive. The current was moving pretty swift through there, and I think three of our divers got tangled up on three different occasions with debris on the bottom of the river," said Thomas County Sheriff's Capt. John Richards.

A river with currents that for a novice swimmer like Justin Weldon would prove deadly. "Even for the trained divers, you can't last for a long-time, you know, trying to fight that current. It just became overwhelming for him," said Brooks County Sheriff Richard Chafin.

Around 7:00 Sunday night, Weldon was fishing with his finance', his brother and sister-in-law. Justin and his brother Kirk slipped off the sandbar and were swept under the current. Kirk Weldon's wife helped pull him to shore.

Justin didn't make it out. "We always want to hold out some hope until you actually find the person," said Richards.

But there is no more hope. Divers recovered the body around 1:30 Monday afternoon. "Mother's Day will never be the same for the mother of this victim, but in time, I'm sure it will get easier for them," Chafin said.

Easier, but forever painful. Justin Weldon was planning to be married in August.

posted at 4:55PM by dave.miller@walb.com