Family of missing kayaker last seen in Destin hopeful for ‘some sort of miracle’

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DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — The U.S. Coast Guard called off the search for missing kayaker David Schink on Monday, but his family says they’re still hoping for a miracle return more than 72 hours later.

“If there’s anyone who could still be surviving this, it is him,” said Tom Schink, one of David’s three sons.

The 61-year-old and his wife Judy have been coming to Destin as snowbirds from Minnesota for the last decade, their son said. Saturday started off as a normal day for the Schinks. They have been staying at the Poolside Villas condominiums in Destin.

At about 2:30 p.m., David Schink launched his kayak from Norriego Point near the condos.

“My mom knows my dad likes to push the boundaries a little bit and challenge himself,” his son Daniel Schink said. “So, she gave him the limit of he has to be back before dark.”

When the sun began to set, Judy Schink began to worry. She went to look for David and couldn’t find any signs of him.

“Emotionally, I kept looking out even into the dark and climbed up to the top of the condos to look out over the ocean and your stomach is in a knot,” she said. “The feeling was numbing.”

After searching the area, Judy Schink called authorities and the Coast Guard began its search. Crews by boat and in the air searched about 9,000 square nautical miles for almost 50 hours.

They didn’t find David, but they found his kayak capsized and half of a paddle.

“Sunday at about 1:40 p.m., they found his kayak but not him,” Tom Schink said. “So, it was kind of a good news, bad news thing. They knew where to look, but they hadn’t found him.”

With temperatures and the likelihood of survival dropping, the Coast Guard called off the search.

“The decision to suspend a search-and-rescue case is never one we come to lightly,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kate Sullivan, search and rescue mission coordinator for Sector Mobile, in a statement. “We offer our deepest sympathies to the family of Mr. Schink in this difficult time.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will continue its recovery search until the end of the week.

“It just hurts,” Tom Schink said. “You just kind of hope there is some sort of miracle out there waiting.”

The world will lose a great man if David Schink is not found alive, his family said. He was a smart, funny man, they said, “always cracking a joke.”

“He was always trying to make people laugh, and he was incredibly smart,” Tom Schink said. “You couldn’t have really asked for a better father.”

He loved to escape the freezing winter temperatures in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota. The water is where he found happiness, often taking videos of his kayaking trips alongside dolphins, Tom Schink said.

“He’s kayaked in that area for the past 10 winters or so,” he said.

Schink’s family said if a miracle doesn’t happen, they’re thankful for the time they had with him.

“I can’t wait to get another hug from him,” Tom Schink said. “I’ll just wait until I see him again.”

Judy Schink was understandably emotional Tuesday when asked what she would say to her husband if she had one last chance.

“Thanks for a marvelous life together,” she said. “You made us all so very happy.”

Schink’s family now hopes to turn a likely tragic situation into a positive.

They said they hope to create something called an “Aqua Alert,” that would work like an Amber Alert for missing boaters, kayakers and others on the waterways. It would allow those in the area to be on the lookout and increase chances of survival, they said.

They also hope to create a pamphlet to include in all kayaks, which would show whether or not it was meant to be used in the sometimes-rough Gulf of Mexico waters. The kayak David Schink used was believed not to be suitable for those waters.

“That’s just what David would have wanted,” his wife said. “To turn this into a positive.”

Schink’s family urges anyone who might have seen him Saturday to contact authorities with information.

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