MYAKKA CITY -- Jimmy Dixon's parents on Sunday said their 32-year-old son was "a country boy," who was an excellent swimmer and was comfortable handling four-wheelers, swamp buggies and air-boats in the Everglades.
So, at 10:15 p.m. Saturday, when a home-made swamp buggy Dixon and a group of his friends were riding began to sink below the surface of a 10-foot-deep private pond at 27100 Crosby Road, Myakka City, Dixon didn't panic, his father, Jerry Dixon said.
"I am told everyone else jumped off, but Jimmy said, 'No worry,' and stayed with the buggy," Jerry Dixon said.
But something tragic happened.
Dixon did not surface from the pond and Manatee County Sheriff's Office divers, about four hours later, found his body, Jerry Dixon said.
The others involved, including the driver of the buggy, were unharmed, according to a Manatee County Sheriff's Office report.
"I don't know exactly what happened," said Jerry Dixon, who was crushed by the loss of his son. "I don't know if it fell over on him or he got stuck in it or what. I was told the people he was
with tried to find him in the water but couldn't. I understand they are devastated. I did not know them, but Jimmy knows tons of people out here. The county will be conducting an autopsy, so, hopefully, we will know more about why he died."
The Dixons were sleeping late Saturday night when a sheriff's office deputy knocked on their door not to tell them that their son had died, but to ask them if they knew where he was.
Apparently, deputies were considering the possibility that Dixon might have gotten out of the pond and left the area.
But the Dixons told deputies he wasn't home.
"It was probably between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. Sunday morning when a diver yelled out, 'Got him,' and they escorted us away from the site," Jerry Dixon said.
By 2 p.m. Sunday, many vehicles had pulled into the Dixon family farm on Verna Bethany Road to sit with Jerry and Nancy Dixon and remember Jimmy, who attended Myakka City Elementary School, showed pigs and cows as a 4-H Club member at the Manatee County Fair, graduated from Southeast High School in 1999 and, while not married, had a long-term relationship with his Myakka City girlfriend, the family said.
Jimmy Dixon was an employee of Manatee County government who worked at the waste water treatment plant on Lena Road, his father said.
He also helped his parents run the five-acre farm, which has cows and other animals.
Jerry Dixon, whose horrible weekend began with a lay off Friday from Tropicana after 21 years as a mechanic, said his son will be cremated and there will not be any formal service.
But that's not because Jimmy wasn't a man of faith or a man without a church.
"He was saved and enjoying his life," Jerry Dixon said of his son. "The reason we are not planning a service is that I think, sometimes, people feel obligated to go to a formal service. We're sitting with people in our home today who really want to be here"
Jimmy Dixon attended Bethany Baptist Church with his parents.
"Jimmy was bubbly and friendly," said Marcia Cannon, who was a media specialist at Myakka City Elementary and worked there when Jimmy Dixon attended. "He was a mischievous, sweet little boy with a kind and good heart."
Jimmy Dixon "got along well with everybody and was a friend to everyone," Cannon added.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686 or tweet @RichardDymond.