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Kayaker Rescued, Body Of Companion Found

Dry Tortugas National Park

National Park News

On the morning of Sunday, February 21st, two campers – a man in his 30s and a Czech woman in her 20s – began a sea kayak trip from Fort Jefferson on Garden Key to Loggerhead Key, planning on returning by 4:30 p.m. At 4 p.m., rangers noticed that they hadn’t yet returned and that there were no boats visible on the water, so began a hasty search for the pair. When the rangers found that the campers were not on Loggerhead Key, they contacted the Coast Guard and asked for an immediate air search, as they had presumably capsized and were now drifting in the open ocean. Rangers conducted a boat search until nightfall and the Coast Guard helicopter from Miami searched by air until 1:30 a.m., but no signs of the missing campers were found. Operations resumed the following morning. The Coast Guard dispatched a cutter, a small boat, an auxiliary aircraft from Key West, and a Falcon Jet from Miami. Incident command was transferred to the Coast Guard’s Sector Key West early that morning. Rangers Ben Brdlik and Dustin Park found the woman’s body about three-and-a-half nautical miles west of Loggerhead Key and outside the park around 11:15 a.m. after running search patterns on the six-foot seas. The search then focused on the area where her body was found and her companion was found alive in the water about a half hour later by the Coast Guard jet. He was about a nautical mile to the southwest. According to the Coast Guard, the kayakers reached Loggerhead Key, but capsized on their return trip and had probably been in the water since 1 p.m. on Sunday. Loggerhead Key is located two-and-a-half nautical miles west of Garden Key. Over half of the trip is over reefs in shallow water with the last mile over open ocean. Crossing conditions are variable and affected by tides, currents, wind and waves. This is a popular trip, and kayakers undertaking it are briefed on the hazards. The couple declined a VHF radio offered by another camper and had no signaling devices. The survivor is a 32-year-old fishing guide from Key West. The woman was a Czech national in her mid-20s who was employed by a property management company in Key West.


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