Missing Kayaker, 67, Rescued After His Phone Washed Up in the Everglades

The 67-year-old man was found 11 days after he set out on a solo kayaking trip

Mark Miele37

A smartphone found on the bank of a river was used by rescuers to pinpoint a missing kayaker's approximate location and save him from the waters of Everglades National Park.

On Jan. 22, Mark Miele, 67, set out on a week-long kayaking trip, but was reported missing when he did not return on Jan. 29, according to the Collier County Sheriff's Office. Deputies from the department — along with representatives of the National Parks Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation commission — set out in search for Miele, and found his belongings on the bank of Lopez River four days later.

Miele's phone was recovered in the belongings, and deputies used position data from the device to approximate the Virginia native's location.

"By downloading the data on Mark's phone Sunday night, deputies found his most recent coordinates logged on Jan. 31," read a statement posted by the sheriff's office to Facebook this week. "Our Aviation Unit began a targeted search of the area."

The next morning, the department's Aviation Unit located Miele floating in the river, just a few miles from where his items were recovered.

"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," Corporal Ed Henderson, the pilot who spotted Miele, told WINK.

Miele was experiencing hypothermia and dehydration, but was alive. Henderson believes if they had arrived any later, things may have ended differently.

"He'd been in the water for two solid days, and it's been really cold," he said of Miele, who was kept afloat thanks to his life jacket. "Coming back and watching the video and seeing the expression on his face and holding the rescuer's hand, that was just … yeah."

Footage of the rescue shows members of a rescue boat using a pole to pull Miele closer to the vessel and lift him to safety.

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Miele is now recovering at a local hospital and investigators hope to talk to him about what caused him to go missing, WINK reported. In a statement, Miele's family thanked everyone who was a part of rescue efforts.

"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," their statement read.

"We couldn't have worked with a more wonderful, caring, kind, and straightforward group of people," they added. "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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