Coast Guard suspends search for overdue kayaker near Suwannee, Fla.

Southeastern Coast Guard NewsSUWANNEE, Fla. — The Coast Guard suspended its search at 9 p.m., Wednesday for an overdue kayaker who departed from near the Suwannee River Oct. 9.

Missing is James F. McDonald, 46.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission personnel contacted watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg Sunday and requested assistance in searching for McDonald. He was reported overdue by family members stating he left for a camping and kayaking trip and had not returned.

The Coast Guard searched on scene approximately 500 square miles during the three-day search using an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, a 20-foot AtoN Boat — Small crew from Coast Guard Station Yankeetown, a Coast Guard Auxiliary boatcrew, a Coast Guard Auxiliary aircrew and FWC crews.

“The Coast Guard’s decision to suspend a search is done with extreme care and deliberation,” said Chief Petty Officer Harold LeBoeuf, a command duty officer at the sector. “After a probable search area is saturated several times with a maximum number of assets, resources, crews and a person in distress is still not located, a decision is made to suspend the search.”

The Coast Guard wants to remind kayakers of some basic safety tips before their next outing.

  • File a float plan. This includes telling family or friends where you are going, what you will be doing and how long you expect to be gone.
  • Wear a life jacket. Coast Guard regulations require that all kayaks have a life jacket on board. There are life jackets designed specifically for paddlers. Buy one that fits well and always wear it while you paddle.
  • Be aware of weather conditions and water temperature. Prepare for changes in weather and always remember to dress for the water not the weather.
  • Stay hydrated. Bring plenty of water and food in case of emergencies.
  • Seek qualified instruction to learn proper paddling techniques, water safety and basic first aid.
  • Bring a VHF-FM radio. A cell phone is a good backup plan but will sometimes not get reception in certain areas.


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