Empty kayak leaves searchers scrambling to recover a victim

January 24, 2020
By Marcy Shortuse

STAFF REPORT – Local search-and-rescue personnel were scouring the waters around Gasparilla Island on the evening of Sunday, Jan. 19 for the potential occupants of a kayak found overturned near Boca Grande Pass.
The call came in at 5:44 p.m. that a blue kayak had been spotted overturned in the water, with no one in the water around it. The Coast Guard and Lee County Sheriff’s Office helicopters were up searching late into the night, and boats were deployed from surrounding agencies as well.
Authorities said the search was called off late that same night and did not begin again the next day.
Searchers are not sure whether the kayak blew into the water yesterday from someone’s dock or property in the high winds. There were no missing persons reports filed in surrounding counties, and on Wednesday, Jan. 22 the owner of the kayak made it known he was fine and no one had been in the watercraft.
Chief C.W. Blosser of the Boca Grande Fire Department said it is very important for people who are missing personal watercraft – from boats to kayaks to canoes – to contact authorities and let them know, even if the owner doesn’t believe the watercraft was stolen. A quick phone call can save many thousands of dollars for search-and-rescue efforts … and may save rescuer lives as well.
Just a few weeks ago a kayaker flipped his kayak in local waters, then lost track of it as he dove down into the water to find something that had fallen off. When he resurfaced, he realized the kayak was floating away too quickly and swam to shore instead. As soon as he was on land, he called authorities to let them know it had not been occupied. Not only did that phone call save time and money, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office was also able to locate the kayak for him and return it.
Always wear a life vest when kayaking or canoeing in rough water, and always try to stay out of Boca Grande Pass unless you are an extremely experienced kayaker and swimmer who knows the danger of the swift-moving current.