‘We were just shocked’: UNF students react to discovery of 17-year-old’s body in pond on campus

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax reported Tuesday that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had responded to reports of a body in a retention pond on the University of North Florida’s campus around 6 p.m.

JSO says investigators found the body of a 17-year-old boy, who was not a student at UNF.

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Investigators say there are no signs of foul play.

JSO tells Action News Jax that next of kin was notified Tuesday night.

Action News Jax reached out to JSO Wednesday for an update on the investigation.

“The next of kin was notified last night. This continues to be an active investigation by the JSO Homicide Unit and the Medical Examiner,” said JSO spokesperson, Cheyenne Snyder.

Action News Jax spoke to UNF students Wednesday about the body’s discovery.

“We were just shocked to be honest, that this occurred right next to campus and all that,” said UNF student, Anthony Portuallo.

Action News Jax told you in February when the body and car of former NFL player, Louis Nix III, were pulled from another pond on the Northside.

Jacksonville City Council Members, Ju’Coby Pittman and LeAnna Cumber are leading the charge in the city’s pond safety awareness campaign.

“It’s incredibly sad, particularly, to find the body of a child, a 17-year-old,” said Cumber. “… We decided that we really needed to do something about the dangers of retention ponds.”

Cumber tells Action News Jax the city’s budgeted about $120,000 to raise awareness of retention pond dangers.

She says the ponds are typically built with a gradual slope, and a steep drop-off.

At the bottom, she says there’s typically debris that can make it difficult for people to get out.

“They tend to look more appealing than they should, and you can’t really see, because the average person doesn’t have visibility into that sloping and what the bottom looks like.

But once you get in it can be very difficult to get out,” said Cumber.

She tells us the campaign’s in the awareness phase currently, but says they’re exploring ways to enhance safety.

“What other municipalities are doing are creating natural barriers that make it less attractive to get to the edge. So, doing things like creating bioswales,” said Cumber.

Cumber tells us fences would not be ideal as safety barriers because they could inhibit first responders who may need to access ponds.

The city says $755,000 in funding is allocated to pond maintenance, including $240,000 in aquatic water treatment, and $515,000 for pond mowing.

You can learn more about the city’s pond safety campaign, here.

Statement from Council Member Ju’Coby Pittman:

“It’s important  that we are the watchdogs for dangers like Retention Ponds, that are a part of the rich fabric of our community, but unsafe for our children, in spaces that represents neighborhoods. Another senseless death of a child and or adults from the silent killer of a retention pond is unacceptable and unforgettable. The efforts of Council Member LeAnna Cumber and I, is that we believe that our community Safety Pond Campaign, is a wakeup call and an awareness for our community to pay attention too.  Together, our legislation and campaign is align to promote public safety that will help save lives, where we all work, live and play.”

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Action News Jax has obtained an email that has been released to UNF students:

No Threat to the Campus Community; Body Pulled from Retention Pond on Campus

Earlier this evening, the University Police Department and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office investigated a report of a body floating in a retention pond next to Alumni Hall. Divers were able to recover the body of a deceased individual. There were no signs of bodily injury and there is no threat to the University community. Although we cannot release the identity at this time, we have verified that the person is not affiliated with UNF. Please note, UNF’s Counseling Center provides crisis support by phone to current students 24 hours a day/7 days a week. To speak with a counselor by phone, please call 904-620-2602 and select option 2. For more information about the crisis helpline and other crisis resources, please visit the Counseling Center’s Emergency Services page at https://www.unf.edu/counseling-center/Emergency_Services.aspx.

Info: https://unf.apparmor.com/Notifications/CAP/?id=49861&t=40600551