ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Florida – An Iowa seminary student honeymooning in Florida drowned when he was swept out to sea on his first time in the ocean, officials said.
The Florida Times-Union reports 22-year-old Dalton Rae Cottrell of Malcolm, Iowa, was swimming with his newlywed wife off Crescent Beach in St. Johns County when the two ran into trouble with the current on Tuesday. His wife says as they were pulled out toward sea, Cottrell began to panic and was dragging her underwater as she tried to help him.
Cheyenne Pernice-Hedrick told authorities he was under for at least a minute before a St. Johns County lifeguard, assisted by a swimmer with a paddleboard, got Cottrell back to the shore. They were unable to revive him.
The St. Augustine Record flags a Facebook post made by Pernice-Hedrick. "3 days of wedded bliss turned into a nightmare very quickly," she wrote. "There is so much fear and uncertainty coursing through myself. My parents came down early this morning to be with me as I begin the next journey. Never did I think at 22 would I be a wife and then a widow so quickly. ... I love you so much Dalton Cottrell."
“It was devastating. Just so sad to hear a couple that we love, in a moment of such tenderness, just having that loss,” said the couple’s pastor, Daniel Vance.
Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary in Ankeny, Iowa, said in a statement that the couple were seniors at the school and had married Saturday in Kansas City, Missouri. Cottrell was training to be a pastor, the school said.
“We had a need in our children's department, and he loved children and Cheyenne loved children. A lot of their courtship was in serving together at this church,” said Vance.
On Wednesday the church held a memorial service. Vance says in times like these the congregation needs to lean on each other, and their faith.
“You know there's some people that have asked me that recently, why would this happen, he had so much in front of him, why would God do this? As Christians, we trust that God knows all things, he's always good, and he holds our days in his hands. So, we just trust that just as God was the one that gave Dalton life, he knew when his time was over,” said Vance.
Additional reporting from AP.