NAPLES, Fla. (WAVY) — A Williamsburg man was found alive in the Florida Everglades, floating in the water without his kayak, nearly two weeks after embarking on a solo trip in the massive national park known for its exotic wildlife, most notably alligators.
Mark Miele was spotted Monday by a Collier County Sheriff’s Office helicopter and rescued. The 67-year-old was found just before noon, face-up in the water, supported by only his life preserver.
Search crews were able to locate him after finding his cell phone Sunday night inside a bag that washed ashore on the bank of the Lopez River. Authorities were able to download his most recent coordinates from Jan. 31, and found him a few miles from that location.
“First concern was when we found him, it didn’t look like he was moving. We didn’t know if this was going to be a recovery or a rescue,” said Cpl. Ed Henderson, the pilot who helped rescue Miele.
The search for Miele began on Jan. 29, the day he was due to return after embarking a week earlier.
The sheriff’s office says Miele is being treated by medical staff at Physicians Regional Medical Center in Naples, Florida. His condition is stable.
It’s still unclear when exactly Miele lost his kayak, and how long he was submerged in the water. Authorities have yet to release additional details in the case, but one rescuer told the Miami Herald that Miele might have had hypothermia.
Miele’s family released a statement through the sheriff’s office.
“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.”