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Canadian Teen, 17, Dies While Conducting Swimming Drills with Teammates Off Florida Coast

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office's Underwater Search and Recovery Team found William Zhang's body just before 5:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday

  • William Zhang, 17, died Wednesday after doing swimming drills with teammates in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a Florida sheriff's office

  • The Canadian teenager's body was found just before 5:30 p.m. local time, several hours after authorities were informed of the incident

  • Detectives said the swim team’s coaches claimed to have “checked for riptides or hazards before the swimmers entered the water"

A Canadian teenager has died after he went missing while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, according to Florida officials.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said William Zhang, 17, “was visiting Florida from Quebec, Canada, with his swim team for a swim camp” on Wednesday when he and several other swim team members entered the water by the 19500 block of Gulf Boulevard in Indian Shores and ran drills.

However, Zhang “did not return to shore at the end of the drills,” sparking a search around 9 a.m. local time, according to the news release.

Deputies with the Underwater Search and Recovery Team found Zhang just before 5:30 p.m. and pronounced him dead. His next of kin has been notified.

Related: 11-Year-Old Girl Injured During Apparent Shark Attack While Swimming Near Shore in Hawaii

Detectives said the swim team’s coaches claimed to have “checked for riptides or hazards before the swimmers entered the water,” according to the PCSO.

Pinellas Suncoast Fire Chief Jeffrey Davidson said the water was choppy on Wednesday, and noted that rip currents were spotted the same morning as the incident, according to Tampa Bay Times.

Rick Ross, a 65-year-old man who witnessed the incident from his fiancée’s home, told the newspaper that he saw a girl running across the beach and waving down the swim team’s chaperone.

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The chaperone then “went running” toward the water and told the swimmers to come to shore, CBS affiliate WTSP reported. The individual then asked Ross for the address before calling for help.

"I said, ‘What for?’ She said, ‘There’s still one on the water,' " Ross recalled.

At one point, Ross saw the boy about 200 feet from shore, according to the Times. A first responder reached him on a surfboard, but the boy eventually disappeared under the water.

Related: Mom, 26, Dies in Apparent Shark Attack While Swimming With Daughter, 5, Off Mexico Coast

Units searched by air and sea before Zhang’s body was discovered. It is unclear what caused the boy to go under.

An investigation into the incident is ongoing. “The incident does not appear suspicious in nature,” the sheriff’s office said.

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