Remains found in Fort Myers Beach identified as woman missing after Ian

Reporter: Tiffany Rizzo Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:


On Thursday morning, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office announced that the remains found in a Fort Myers Beach mangrove were identified as those of 82-year-old Ilonka Knes.

Knes’ remains were discovered Tuesday near Fort Myers Beach Town Hall. In a press conference, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said that she was identified via her dental records.

Watch the press conference below or click here.

A boating crew working to remove debris in the canal discovered the remains and contacted deputies. Logan Sorto was working a construction job across from the canal when the discovery was made.

His heart, he said, “goes out to the family—how shocking it has to be to find a loved one here. And it’s just very shocking for me… for my guys here working as well. For them to know that there’s human remains just feet from us.”

Marti Gardner is in mourning because she lost her best friend. “She was wonderful. She was so sweet. She was so sweet,” said Gardner. “We moved to the beach in ’96. Bob and Ilonka were the first people we met. We lived down the street from them. We knew them for the 16 years that we lived there.”

Gardner said she would never get over the pain she’s sure Ilonka Knes felt in her final moments. “I kept calling everybody I knew, and no one knew what had happened to her.”

We all know the sad truth now. Ian’s surge took many lives.

“I was… I just… I heard that Bob was found. And I just kept saying, ‘what about Ilonka?” Gardner said.

For weeks and weeks, that was a question without an answer. Knes’ husband, Bob, was found dead in their home on Tropical Shores Way.

“Her niece in Australia, Ilonka’s brother’s daughter, got in touch with me,” said Gardner.

She knew a debris cleanup crew found human remains in the mangroves less than a quarter-mile from Knes’ home.

“I told them that I thought they found her, and she texted me and said they confirmed with the family, and it was her. It just makes me cry,” said Gardner. “I’ll just remember her so kindly.”

Gardner, wiping the tears from her eyes, shared her pain. “I just put something on Facebook because I said ‘someone’s gotta remember her because she was so nice.”

Gardner said that Knes’ family is thankful that her remains were found. She said the family hopes to cremate her and her husband, Bob, and throw their ashes into the Gulf together.

72-year-old James Hurst, another Fort Myers Beach resident reported missing after Hurricane Ian, has not been found yet.

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