Teen identified after boat accident at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota

Sarasota County

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of a teenager who was found Friday morning in a lake at Nathan Benderson Park, according to a release.

The sheriff’s office said that around 4:30 a.m., when the park was closed to the public, deputies and the Sarasota County Fire Department were called to the park for a marine rescue. According to authorities, two people were on a paddle boat in the middle of the lake, but jumped out after the boat started malfunctioning.

One person made it to shore, but he had to call 911 after he noticed that his friend had problems while swimming.

The teen identified as 18-year-old Jalen Smith did not survive.

Smith recently graduated from Sarasota High School. He was a beloved student athlete who played football, basketball, and baseball for the Sailors.

Football Coach Brody Wiseman tweeted about the teen Friday. “Our community lost one of the best ones. Jalen will always be loved and remembered by myself, his teammates, and our community. Please pray for the Sailors,” wrote the coach.

More than 100 students, staff, coaches, and loved ones gathered in the high school’s gymnasium Friday to remember the teen.

“Jalen is just somebody that smiled all the time. Great kid, work ethic was amazing. I mean he was a kid that I won’t forget ever just because of the way he held himself together,” said JV basketball Coach Fernando Rivera.

“He just made everyone happier. He just wanted to bring a smile to everybody’s face no matter how rough the day was going and he would put everybody before himself. He is just that type of kid,” said Coach Rivera.

Both the Sheriff’s Underwater Recovery Force (S.U.R.F.) and Marine Unit worked to find Smith. Around 11 a.m., deputies found Smith’s body in the north part of the lake.

The sheriff’s office said the preliminary investigation suggests there is no indication the incident is anything other than accidental, however the investigation is active and ongoing. As always, an official cause of death will be determined and released by the Medical Examiner’s Office.

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