A physical education teacher and track coach at Cristo Rey High School in Baton Rouge lost his life Friday afternoon after he was swept up in strong currents while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico on a vacation in Destin, Florida.
The drowning occurred off Holiday Isle, according to a report in the Northwest Florida Daily News. School officials said Carlos Rodriguez, 36, was vacationing there last week with his girlfriend.
Rodriguez began working at Cristo Rey in fall 2018. The school said in a Facebook post Friday evening that he made "a huge impact on our community" and referred to him affectionately as Coach Rod.
Rodriguez was seen struggling in the water around 2 p.m. Friday, according to the Daily News report. Other beachgoers said the wind had picked up, causing the current to suddenly become very strong. That's when a woman screamed for help and several bystanders tried to swim out and pull Rodriguez to shore, but were pulled underwater themselves and unable to save him.
A pontoon boat finally reached Rodriguez and brought him to the beach, where a nurse began lifesaving measures. The report says he was taken to a nearby Coast Guard station to wait for a medical helicopter, but could not be revived.
The report by the Florida newspaper doesn't name Rodriguez, but school officials confirmed it references his death.
Cristo Rey officials praised Rodriguez's "unique energy and passion for his work, for our students and for our school" and said he "will be sorely missed by all of us."
Eric Engemann, the school's president, said Rodriguez made a big impact during his short time at Cristo Rey, leaving the community shocked and saddened after the freak accident that claimed his life.
"He was amazing, truly committed to his craft and to improving the lives of our students," Engemann said. "He had a great spirit."
Officials said funeral arrangements are pending and the school will release that information once it becomes available.