Missing kayaker rescued after several days adrift in Everglades National Park

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia
Published: Updated:

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office has rescued a missing kayaker after he had not been heard from for several days.

Mark Miele, 67, of Virginia, embarked on a solo kayaking trip in the Everglades National Park on Jan. 22. He was due back from his trip on Jan. 29 but did not return.

Four days later, Miele’s belongings including his wallet and phone washed up on the bank of the Lopez River. Park rangers found them and asked CCSO to assist in a search.

Deputies were able to download the data on Miele’s phone Sunday night and find his most recent coordinates logged on Jan. 31. CCSO’s Aviation Unit began a targeted search of the area.

Shortly before noon Monday, they were able to locate Miele and guided CCSO’s Marine Unit, alongside National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, to his location which was just a few miles from where his belongings were found.

He was dehydrated and hypothermic, but alive. As of Tuesday afternoon, CCSO said Miele is stable and recuperating in the hospital.

“First concern when we found him it didn’t look like he was moving and we didn’t know if it was going to be a recovery or a rescue,” said Corporal Ed Henderson, the pilot who spotted the missing kayaker.

Henderson said Miele was floating on top of his life jacket in the middle of the river, making it easier for rescuers to see him. He said a few hours more and they might have been too late.

“Turns out when I talk to a guy after the fact that was on scene, he goes, no, he was convulsing. He’d been in the water for two solid days and it’s been really cold,” he said. “Coming back and watching the video and seeing the expression on his face and holding the rescuer’s hand, that was just…yeah.”

Henderson said this was a great day. There are still a lot of unanswered questions, including the obvious—what happened that caused Miele to disappear?

Investigators hope to talk with him soon.

Miele’s family says they are grateful to have him back safe and released the following statement:

Mark is recovering and is stable. We thank the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, the National Park Service and all of the search rangers, and the Fish and Wildlife Commission. We couldn’t have worked with a more wonderful, caring, kind, and straightforward group of people. It’s a miracle he’s alive and in the condition he is in. We would also like to thank the professionals at Physicians Regional Hospital (Collier Boulevard) for their competency and caring ways.

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