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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Remains of another victim of Hurricane Ian are found in Florida

Law enforcement officials hoisted a sunken sailboat from a harbor in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., on Friday. The remains of the boat’s owner, James Hurst, were found onboard.


The remains of a Florida man who had been missing since his sailboat disappeared during Hurricane Ian in September have been found, officials said, days after another storm victim’s remains were discovered in the same county.

Divers for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office found the remains of the man, James Hurst, on his sunken sailboat, in the Matanzas Pass area of the harbor in Fort Myers Beach, along Florida’s southwest coast. The boat, named “Good Girl,” had been docked at Island Bay Marina and was spotted across the harbor last week at a very low tide, the sheriff’s office said. The remains were identified on Sunday.

Hurst, 72, known as Denny, had been living on the boat when Ian made landfall in September. His daughter Shannon Vaughan said on Monday in an interview that he had refused to evacuate.

Lee County, which includes Fort Myers and surrounding barrier islands, experienced some of the most severe devastation from Ian, and Hurst had been the area’s final missing person from the storm.

The discovery of his remains came three days after a debris removal company found the remains of Ilonka Knes, 82, who had been missing since her home in Fort Myers Beach was destroyed during the hurricane.

“I hope this discovery can bring the family some closure,” Sheriff Carmine Marceno of Lee County said at the time. Officials said that Knes most likely drowned. Her husband was also killed in the storm.

Ian, Florida’s deadliest hurricane since 1935, killed 75 people in Lee County and 147 in the state overall, officials said.

The hurricane hit Florida’s southwest coast on Sept. 28 as a Category 4 storm, bringing punishing winds, unrelenting rains and devastating flooding. Scientists with NASA said last year that sea surface temperatures were particularly warm off Florida’s southwest coast, allowing the storm to pick up energy just before making landfall north of Fort Myers.

Lee County waited a day longer than surrounding counties to order its most vulnerable residents to evacuate. Officials said that decision was based on predictions that the hurricane would head farther north.

Statistics on who was killed by the storm show that older people died in larger numbers. Older adults can face several obstacles when deciding whether to evacuate when a storm approaches; some of them require medical equipment, or cannot drive, or cannot easily sleep in a makeshift shelter.

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