Family remembers son who died in Sanibel kayak incident

Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
William Jenkins. Credit: Photo shared with WINK News.
William Jenkins. Credit: Photo shared by family with WINK News.

The family of a teenager, who died after a kayaking incident, shared more with us about the life of their beloved son.

On Saturday evening, a good Samaritan rescued an unconscious 16-year-old William Jenkins off Sanibel Causeway after he had gone missing in a kayak. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Family members believe his recent epilepsy diagnosis factored into his death on Mother’s Day.

“’No matter what, you’re a great mom, and I’m lucky to be your son’” Jenkins’ mother Yolanda read from a card he had made for her. “And he never signed it, but I did, so I’ll never forget my Mother’s Day, the day that I lost my son.”

Jenkins was a student at Fort Myers High School. He was a member of the school football team and worked at a Jersey Mike’s Subs. But his true passion was fishing.

“He always wanted to catch a hammerhead shark, big 14-footer,” said Michael Gaval, a close friend of Jenkins.

Jenkins went out on Saturday to accomplish his goal, but his parents told him he needed to stay on shore.

“That was the promise. Yes,” Yolanda said.

Jenkins was diagnosed with epilepsy back in February after he had two seizures.

“He was in denial that epilepsy was a part of his life,” Yolanda said.

Jenkins could not help but take the kayak out on the water.

“Willie was adamant,” Yolanda said. “He was shark fishing. He was doing it his way.”

His family believes he had a seizure on the water. But an official cause of death for Jenkins has not been determined.

“Our belief is he didn’t take his meds that night,” Yolanda said. “He died doing what he loved.”

A friend and good Samaritan rushed Jenkins to shore and then the hospital. They tried to bring him back performing CPR but were unable to.

Jenkins’ family said he wanted to be a boat captain if he was unable to succeed as a professional football player.

“We have a young angel in heaven, and we know he’s with us forever,” Yolanda said.


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