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Student dies after falling off riverboat

Melissa Brown

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The body of missing University of Alabama student Charles Edward Jones, III was found just before 2 p.m. Friday, Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Chris Williamson said.

Jones fell into the Black Warrior River Thursday night during a party on the Bama Belle riverboat hosted by the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

“At 9:50 p.m., we received a call that somebody went overboard on the Bama Belle, west of the amphitheater, and units responded,” Tuscaloosa Police Department Sgt. Brent Blankley said Thursday night.

Authorities conducted a search late Thursday but had to suspend efforts until first light. Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue personnel began arriving near the Bama Belle dock around 7:30 a.m. Friday. Family and friends gathered by the Bama Belle dock early in the morning to wait for news.

Blankley said investigations into Jones’ death are ongoing and would include interviews of those on the boat with Jones Thursday night. Police confirmed that alcohol was present on the boat Thursday night.

Blankley said he would not go into the details of the possibility of investigations being made into whether Jones was served or given alcohol on the Bama Belle.

Blankley said more than a dozen divers conducted a “very meticulous” underwater grid search at 30- to 40-foot depths. Parker said divers marked off six-foot sections at a time to create a grid pattern and covered at least 3000 sq. ft.

Jones, known as “Tre” to friends and family, was a sophomore chemical engineering major from Demopolis.

Camilo Zapata, a sophomore and Jones’ freshman year roommate, said Jones was one of the liveliest guys he knew. “He was very welcoming and open,” Zapata said. “He was always looking out for his friends first and himself second. His parents were great — they seemed very close-knit, and they raised a great son.”

Jones recently “crossed,” or was initiated into, the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

National Pan-Hellenic Council president Xavier Burgin said every fraternity and sorority in NPHC sends their condolences to Jones’ family.

“Foremost, we grieve with the Eta Chi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi who’ve lost a friend, brother and member,” Burgin said. “We hope this instance of avoidable circumstance reminds every student at the University of Alabama to cherish those you hold dearest. Tomorrow is not promised.”

 

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Student dies after falling off riverboat