FORT MYERS BEACH

Family and friends of 72-year-old James “Danny” Hurst are feeling a bittersweet mix of emotions after restoration of Hearst’s bodywhich means everyone is missing in Lee County after Hurricane Yang.

Hearst was found on his sunken Good Girl sailboat, which was pulled from the water Friday near Salty Sam’s in Matanzas Pass. While those who knew Hearst were surprised to learn of his fate, they are happy that his family got the closure they had been waiting for for more than 100 days.

“It was amazing that they found him,” Fort Myers resident Darryl Schmidt said. “I was surprised they found him so late.”

It was not an easy operation. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office was in and out of the water for hours. Hearst’s daughter Shannon Vaughan shared her reaction to the discovery in a post on Twitter: “I’m happy and sad at the same time.”

Despite the outcome, Cape Coral resident John Davis says Hearst’s death will not be in vain.
He believes Hearst was a great example of what makes the people of Fort Myers Beach special.

“It’s like, you know, the characters, the people on the beach, what they like about it, and they’re not going to leave under any circumstances, ‘There’s a hurricane coming, I’ve got my boat, whatever comes, comes,'” he said. Davis.

For others, like Ann Garbelink, Hearst’s discovery serves as a point of closure: He was the last person missing since Ian’s murder. Knowing he was found gives her peace as she continues to move forward.

“I’ve been coming here since I was a teenager and visiting my parents, and then we moved here five years ago,” Garbelink said. “I needed that closure, I needed to come here and see.”

The recovery process is not stopped; crews are still clearing debris from the water in Fort Myers Beach. But people say progress won’t let them forget those who died in the storm, like Hearst and Ilonka Knesalso recently discovered.

“I was just like, ‘What about Ilonka?'” said Marty Gardner, Kness’s best friend. “I kept calling everyone I knew and no one knew what had happened to her.”

The same goes for Hearst. Shannon Vaughan took to social media to share her journey as she searched for her father.

“It’s official,” Vaughan said. “Missing people just called; The medical examiner confirmed that my father was found on his boat.’

Deputies confirmed Kness’ remains were found Jan. 10 in mangroves near Fort Myers Beach City Hall. Just three days later, Hearst’s sailboat was found underwater in Matanzas Pass with him on board.

“It’s very sad,” Garbelink said. “It’s all very sad.”

“I think it’s great for the family to have this kind of closure,” Cape Coral resident Harper Wright said. “He died as he lived.”

Despite the tragic outcome, people say their lives should not be forgotten, nor should any of the more than 100 lives we lost during Hurricane Ian. Darryl Schmidt suggests creating a memorial.

“Maybe just a big name board,” Schmidt said. “Something here in Times Square.”

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