Missing Punta Rassa kayaker found dead; was ‘amazing father’

This undated photo provided by the ex-wife of Fort Myers resident Justin R. Furman shows him with his twin daughters. Furman’s body was found Sunday after he went missing while kayaking Friday night.

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. A body found Sunday afternoon in San Carlos Bay was identified as that of a 29-year-old kayaker who went missing Friday night, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.

Fort Myers resident Justin R. Furman was found dead at about 3 p.m. near the Sanibel Causeway, according to the FWC. The cause of death is unknown.

“He was an amazing father,” ex-wife Holly Shrader said. “He was a good guy all around.”

The father of twin 10-year-old daughters was last seen Friday night kayaking off Punta Rassa. He had been camping with a group of friends and decided he wanted to go fishing along the beach around 9 p.m., the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Members of Furman’s group stayed in contact with him until 10:15 p.m., but his friends said they were unable to find him when they woke up the next morning, according to the FWC.

The kayak was found just before noon on Saturday by a good Samaritan in the area between Sanibel Island and Bowditch Point, according to the Coast Guard. The FWC found Furman’s body.

“He loved being in the water,” Shrader said. “He just loved to be fishing on the water, anything outdoors. He took the girls as much as he could, you know? It’s what he loved to do.”

Furman’s daughters also went camping this weekend, but they weren’t with him. They camped out in a neighbor’s backyard instead, Furman’s grandparents said.

Shrader instantly thought of the girls when she heard Furman had died.

“He had an amazing relationship with them,” she said. “He would always take them fishing, to the beach, stuff like that. They always loved doing stuff with him and he was just, he was good to them.”

Shrader and Furman remained on good terms after their marriage ended, she said.

“I’m gonna miss talking to him when I needed to vent and stuff like that, you know?” she said.

Furman did not have a life preserver, cellphone or emergency equipment with him in the kayak, the FWC said.

Kayakers should carry a personal flotation device, some sort of communication device, a bountiful supply of water and a flashlight, said Coty Kellison, a tour guide for south Fort Myers-based Kayak Excursions. For more information on kayaking requirements, click here.

“Your life is in danger every time you go out there, and if you don’t follow all precautions, you know something like that can happen,” Kellison said.

The Coast Guard, Station Fort Myers Beach, Air Station Clearwater, FWC, Lee County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit, Cape Coral Fire Department, Estero Fire Rescue, and the Iona-McGregor Fire Protection and Rescue Service District all assisted in the search.

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