News Staff Report
Donald Ray Helton died doing one of the two things he loved most in life.
The 79-year-old Cantonment man, who was born in Huxford and lived part of his life in the Atmore area, was a diehard University of Alabama football fan and an avid fisherman. He was enjoying the second passion when he lost his life.
Helton’s body was discovered August 2 by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers, about a mile south of Interstate 10, in eight feet of Escambia Bay water.
The search for his body was conducted by FFWCC, Escambia Search and Rescue, the U.S. Coast Guard and fire departments in Avalon and Pace.
Initial reports are that Helton, a 1962 University of Alabama graduate and an Elder in the Remnant Church of Latter-Day Saints, went into the water wearing a wet suit. But ESR personnel reported that Helton, who apparently fell from his 17-foot Weldbilt aluminum boat, was wearing street clothes, including a blazer, when his body was recovered.
Helton, a retired seventh-grade science teacher at Ransom Middle School, was reportedly fishing with a 15-year-old passenger when he fell overboard.
The retired educator’s niece, Sheron Rundall told a Pensacola television station that her uncle was on a special fishing trip with the teen. She said she and other family members were shocked by the fact that he died from an accident on the water.
“He has been out there mentoring the grandson of a family friend and took this man out there fishing for a fun time — we thought — and then this terrible accident happened,” said Rundall. “He has been a life-long fisherman, avid fisherman, fishes every chance he gets, very experienced, and for him to have an accident on a boat is just so shocking to us.”