Published: Jan 08, 2011 5:31 AM EST
Updated: Jan 08, 2011 2:32 AM EST

CAPE CORAL, Fla. - The body of a missing Cape Coral man who disappeared off the Coast of Costa Rica was recovered Friday.  After a 3-day search, Erik Downes' body was recovered in the waters off Playa Pinuelas.

The tragic news is quickly spreading, to friends and family who had been holding onto hope for a miracle. "He was just that friendly guy," Sofia Shepard said, reflecting warmly on the years she spent with her friend, Erik Downes.

"Everyone kind of knew who he was," Shepard said. "Even now, kids I'm sure, who might have never even met him know him and still respect him because he just kind of left that legacy of being the nice guy. He won prom king and just overall, you knew he was going to go somewhere."

Downes was on an ecological study abroad program in Costa Rica with classmates from Oglethorpe University. Tuesday, a group was out swimming, when they were caught in a rip current. Downes never resurfaced.

"We weren't really sure, was he in the water, was he by himself, where it happened," Shepard said.

Family and friends prayed for his safe return. But Friday, they learned search crews found his body. "It just kind of spread like wildfire through Facebook and phone calls," Shepard said. Soon, kind words and memories flooded the social network, and a memorial page was created to honor his life. Downes graduated from Canterbury School in 2008, and went on to study Pre-Med at Oglethorpe University.

University President Lawrence Schall said in a statement, "Erik was a shining star with unlimited potential and a kind heart. This is a great loss to our community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

"He touched everyone he met, really, whether it's in a small way or a big way. I don't know anyone who didn't like him, he's just that kind of person."

Fort Myers Shores Seventh-Day Adventist Church plans to hold a prayer service for Downes Sunday at 4 p.m.