Arkansas man drowns off Panama City Beach

    11:04 PM, Jun 12, 2013   |    comments
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    • Douglas Eugene Cotnam (Photo: Family)
    • Pastor Garland Edwards with the World Wide Christian Outreach Church.
    • (Photo: Thinkstock)
    • Douglas Eugene Cotnam with granddaughter. (Photo: Family)

    PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (KTHV/AP) - A 68-year-old man from Mountain Pine, Ark., drowned while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico off Panama City Beach.

    Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman said Douglas Eugene Cotnam was pulled from the water around 3 p.m. Tuesday. A double-red flag warning of hazardous swimming conditions were posted shortly afterward in a effort to stop anyone else from getting caught up on the same dangerous waters that Cotnam had found himself in.

    THV 11 traveled to Mountain Pine on Wednesday to learn more about Cotnam, who was a familiar name in town.

    "Doug's the kind of guy you would talk to him, and you would fall in love with him. He was very special," said Pastor Garland Edwards with the World Wide Christian Outreach Church, who met Cotnam four-and-a-half years ago. "His daughter was going to church here, and she had him come over, and he's been here ever since."

    He'd become an active member at the church, participated in church plays, and never shied away from his faith.

    "You know if you asked for a testimony, he'd be the first one to testify and said that how great God's been to him," Pastor Edwards recalled.    

    Cotnam lived most of his life in Mountain Pine and was a Vietnam War Veteran. His pastor added that he was a people person--a family man and someone you could count on.

    "He's just been a blessing, and if he told you something, you could pretty well bank on it," Pastor Edwards said.

    All of this made the news of Cotnam's sudden drowning Tuesday, like losing a loved one.

    "It was devastating to hear what happened, and it just...it breaks your heart," Pastor Edwards said. "We are going to miss him, and we will do anything in the world the family needs to do, we'll do it," Pastor Edwards added.

    THV 11 did speak with a relative by phone, who said Cotnam was on vacation with his wife and grandkids when the drowning happened. That relative also said that the family back home is still waiting on a lot of answers into what led up to this tragedy.

    (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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