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Missing Hurricane Ian victim found dead on sunken sailboat months after storm

Semta News
Semta News
4 Min Read

The body of a Florida man who went missing during Hurricane Ian in September has been found on a sunken sailboat months after the storm.

James “Denny” Hurst was the last known person still missing in Lee County after the Category 4 hurricane slammed into Florida last year, leaving dozens dead and causing widespread devastation.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office announced Sunday that Hurst’s body had been found on a sunken sailboat, “Good Girl,” that had been located by divers in Matanzas Pass in Fort Myers Beach.

“Missing person James ‘Denny’ Hurst was last known to have been on board during Hurricane Ian,” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said in a tweet Friday, adding that divers were actively working to recover the vessel. “We are speaking with his family during these difficult times.”

The sheriff’s office had been called to Salty Sam’s Marina on Thursday after a worker spotted wreckage from a boat they had never seen before, NBC News affiliate WBBH, which is based in Fort Myers, Florida, reported.

During efforts to recover the vessel, human remains were found on the boat, Marceno announced.

The sheriff confirmed on Sunday that the remains belonged to Hurst.

“Mr. Hurst’s family has been notified,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Hurst’s daughter, Shannon Vaughan, told WBBH her father had lived on the boat. She said she was glad to have closure.

“It’s finally done. You know? It’s just finally done,” Vaughan told WBBH. “We’re glad that you’re finally found and you’re home. I love you. I miss you. We all do.”

Hurst was known to have mobility problems and used a walker to move around, WBBH reported. He had last been seen on his boat when it was docked at the Island Bay Marina on Sept. 28, the day Hurricane Ian made landfall, according to the outlet.

Friday’s discovery came just days after the body of an 82-year-old Florida woman who also went missing during Hurricane Ian was recovered on Tuesday.

A contract debris removal company cleaning an area near Fort Myers Beach found the remains of Ilonka Knes “deep within the mangroves,” Marceno said at a news conference on Thursday.

“These areas are impassable by boat and they’re not visible by the air,” he said.

Knes had lived in Fort Myers Beach with her husband, who had previously been found dead, with the area being “completely destroyed” when the Category 4 storm hit Florida.

Relatives had requested a welfare check on Knes on Oct. 7 about a week after the hurricane, but deputies were unable to find her. She was declared missing on Oct. 15 after several efforts to locate her.

Her body was found months later .16 miles away from her home, Marceno said. The cause of death was determined to be accidental drowning.

At the time, he said Knes’ death had brought the total number of confirmed casualties in the county to 74, with Hurst being the final victim still missing.

Statewide, NBC News identified more than 140 deaths related to the hurricane. 

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