Friends and family grieve for Chris Zutes, boater killed on Tampa Bay

4:38 PM, Jul 5, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Investigators say it may be weeks before they know exactly what led up to a deadly boat accident Wednesday night near Tampa.

SEE ALSO: Leave your condolences for Chris Zutes

They identified the victim as 28-year-old Chris Zutes.

FWC, which is leading the investigation, says Zutes' body was found early this morning near Culbreath Isles, where he'd been visiting a friend. They say he was thrown overboard when his 20-foot flats boat struck a channel marker in the bay, then ran into a seawall.

There was a witness account that said Chris might have been racing against a wave-runner, but investigators were not able to confirm that at this point.

They were back out there one more time Thursday, looking for clues. They say the elements are making it more challenging than land-based accidents.

"Everything that does happen is usually moved afterwards, due to wind and tidal flow or evidence does sink to the bottom," said FWC Spokesman Baryl Martin.

Homan Lajevardi, a who lives across the street in Zutes' South Tampa neighborhood, was shocked.

"My thoughts are with his family," he said.

Neighbors describe Zutes as smart, polite, and a big fan of music. At his home on Santiago Street, built for him by his father, they say Zutes could often be heard rocking out with his buddies.

"I'd hear him play with his band, practicing. They played the kind of music that I like. You know, classic stuff," said Lajevardi.

"Very sad. Very sad," said next-door neighbor Jose Murillo, "I was devastated when I heard that this morning. I said I couldn't believe that."

According to friends, Zutes went to Berkley Prep in Tampa, then the University of Florida. He was an engineer working for Whiting Turner contracting. 

At his parents' home in Tarpon Springs, a cousin told us the family was too distraught to speak on camera, but described Chris as a great guy. He was hard working and boating, he said, was his passion.

Zutes' Facebook page includes photos of him hunting, fishing, enjoying music and his time on the water.

"Our hearts go out to the family, I couldn't imagine losing a son," said Martin.

It was a sentiment shared by everyone we spoke with.

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