The Martin County Sheriff’s Office said the body of a missing boater who vanished in the gator-infested water at Hosford Park in Stuart on Tuesday has been found.
During a news conference on Wednesday morning, Chief Deputy John Budensiek said James Summer, a seasonal resident from Indiana, was trying to secure his pontoon-style boat to a dock in windy conditions at approximately 5 p.m. when the boat started drifting away.
“He jumped in to swim out to recover his boat,” Budensiek said. “His boat continued to drift away from him. Once he got to the boat, the boat is an older boat that he was unable to to reach up and grab and hold onto.”
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Budensiek added that Summer “lost his fight” while trying to stay above the water.
As the mission shifted from a rescue to a recovery effort, the chief deputy said alligators posed a “huge challenge” to both the Martin County Sheriff’s Office and Martin County Fire Rescue.
“Post him going under the water, gators are absolutely part of the equation. And we are worried about gators manipulating or moving him,” Budensiek said, not long before Summer’s body was eventually found by search crews using sonar.
Because of the rough waves and windy conditions on Tuesday evening, Summer’s boat had drifted 200 yards from the dock.
When authorities recovered the vessel, they discovered it had taken on a “significant amount” of water, Budensiek said.
The sheriff’s office said Summer’s wife, who was also on the boat when her husband went missing, called a neighbor to report the incident. That neighbor then called 911 at approximately 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Hosford Park is located near Cove Road and South Kanner Highway.