Mission shifts to recovery for missing swimmer in Naples

Published: November 28, 2021 5:43 PM EST
Updated: November 29, 2021 5:12 AM EST

A rescue mission that began Saturday for a missing swimmer has shifted into a recovery operation. Firefighters, Naples Police Officers, and Collier County Sheriff’s Deputies began looking for Matthew Britton on Saturday evening.

Authorities spent hours searching by air and in the Gulf off of Gordon Drive in Naples. They say Britton was last seen about 50 yards from the Gulf Shore at Naples Beach.

Lieutenant William Warren is the active Battalion Chief for City of Naples Fire Rescue. “So yesterday, when we originally received the call, we had divers responding. They were on scene within about 27 minutes,” said Lt. Warren.

The search for that Jacksonville man began when witnesses saw Britton go into the water and then didn’t see him come back out or resurface. Warren’s crew showed up to search from the land while divers searched the water.

“We had them in the water starting a search. From there, we called other resources from other departments. So we had additional water resources, divers, and then air assets from throughout the county,” Lt. Warren said.

“We searched all the area from that last scene point where the witnesses saw him go down. We had resources covering that whole area. We covered everything from Naples Pier down to Gordon Pass,” he said.

Beachgoers like Sharon Powidzki realize that time is of the essence in a search like this. “That breaks my heart. To know that there’s someone out here because that water is cold now,” Powidzki said.

For the safety of the divers, they had to halt their search on Saturday at sunset. On Sunday, the mission resumed with Florida Fish and Wildlife assisting and two fire agencies. They continued searching the area near Gordon Drive and 21st Ave S in Naples.

“Where we always start out is that last seen point, so we rely heavily on witnesses to say this is the area that we saw that person go down and generally speaking within a short period of time,” said Warren. “That person stays right in the area if they were to break the surface of the water, so that’s where we focus our search is on that last seen point.”

But as the mission continued, the focus changed from rescue to recovery. “Just prayers for the family. Hopefully, they’ll come across and find him,” said Powidski.