Missing kayaker with dementia found safe

VERO BEACH — A 72-year-old kayaker with dementia was found safe walking down the road after his disappearance prompted a nearly four-hour search by several agencies along the Indian River Lagoon.

“It’s a good show of teamwork,” Indian River County sheriff’s deputy Bobby Gage said. “Some of these guys (from other agencies) you’ve never met before and now you’re working together. The search boats were put in the water minutes after we got the report.”

Vero Beach police said Brian Douglas Palmer left the Vero Beach City Marina Tuesday afternoon. Palmer left the area in a purple kayak, traveling north along the Indian River Lagoon, Vero Beach police Sgt. Frank Adamski said.

Palmer’s wife, Theresa Palmer, 69, said she initially wasn’t worried because her husband has kayaked for 60 years. The couple, who live in Virginia, are in town visiting for the week.

Theresa Palmer noted that it was Brian Palmer’s first time traveling on the lagoon. The wife called law enforcement about 2:30 p.m. after Brian Palmer failed to return.

Several agencies, including Vero Beach police, Indian River County Fire Rescue, Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard used boats and helicopters to find the man.

Authorities found an abandoned kayak about 6 p.m. near 69th Street, Adamski said. Deputies then spotted Brian Palmer walking near 45th Street and U.S. 1 soon after, Officer James Doty said.

“He didn’t know where he was going, so he docked the vessel,” Doty said. “He didn’t have a destination in mind. He figured he had traveled too far already. He planned to come back to the marina.”

Palmer, who was alone when he left the marina, did not bring his cell phone when he sailed along the water, officers said. Doty noted some kayakers prefer not to bring electronics on their voyages so their devices don’t get water damage.

Agency vehicles from the sheriff’s office, fire rescue and police left the scene about 6:30 p.m.

“It was outstanding team work,” Doty said. “Everyone was searching down the Indian River Lagoon and we were able to find him so quick.”


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