BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The death of a decorated Navy sailor in a Florida diving accident has touched the Mississippi coast. The U.S. Coast Guard recovered the body of Chief Petty Officer Kenneth Gates, 32, Thursday evening after a two-day search in Tampa Bay.
According to media reports there, Gates' mother lives in Biloxi. Navy officers went to her home late Thursday night to confirm the news she'd been fearing.
Facebook posts show Gates was an avid boater, diver and fisherman who loved to take his son out on the water.
The Coast Guard said Gates and a friend were aboard a 24-foot boat Tuesday when he dove into the water to retrieve a tangled anchor and never resurfaced. Gates' friend made a desperate radio call for help, telling rescuers Gates jumped in the water wearing his weighted dive belt, snorkel and mask but not his air tank.
Gates was a member of the U.S. Special Operations Command stationed at MacDill Air Force Base. Gates, a 10-year veteran of the Navy, was stationed at the Seabee Base in Gulfport from 2009 to 2012.
"Chief Gates was not only an integral part of the Navy team here at SOCOM, he was a caring father and an amazing mentor to the sailors who worked for him," said Capt. Kent Paro, USSSOCOM's Navy element commander. "He will be deeply missed at home and on base."
The Coast Guard used boats and a helicopter to search 165 square miles of Tampa Bay over two days before suspending the search Thursday afternoon. Just hours later, another boater notified the Coast Guard he had found a body matching Gates' description.