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Missing Hurricane Ian victim found dead on sunken Florida sailboat months after storm

Remains found Friday on the sailboat Good Girl on Fort Myers Beach have been identified as those of James "Denny" Hurst, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said.
A dive team searches the wreckage of a sunken ship in Matanza's Pass in Fort Myers, Fla., on Friday.
A dive team searches the wreckage of a sunken ship in Matanza's Pass in Fort Myers, Fla., on Friday. @SheriffLeeFL / Twitter

The body of a Florida man who vanished during Hurricane Ian in September has been found on a sunken sailboat months after the storm.

James "Denny" Hurst was the last known person still missing in Lee County after Ian, a Category 4 hurricane, slammed into Florida last year, killing dozens and causing widespread devastation.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office announced Sunday that Hurst's body had been found on a sunken sailboat, Good Girl, which divers found in Matanzas Pass in Fort Myers Beach.

“Missing person James ‘Denny’ Hurst was last known to have been on board during Hurricane Ian,” Sheriff Carmine Marceno tweeted Friday, adding that divers were working to recover the vessel. “We are speaking with his family during these difficult times.”

The sheriff’s office was called to Salty Sam’s Marina on Thursday after a worker spotted wreckage from a boat they had never seen before, NBC affiliate WBBH of Fort Myers reported.

During efforts to recover the vessel, human remains were found it, Marceno announced. He confirmed Sunday that the remains are those of Hurst.

"Mr. Hurst’s family has been notified," the sheriff's office said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Shannon Vaughan, Hurst’s daughter, told WBBH her father had lived on the boat. She said she was glad to have closure.

“It’s finally done. You know? It’s just finally done,” Vaughan told WBBH. “We’re glad that you’re finally found and you’re home. I love you. I miss you. We all do.”

Hurst was known to have mobility problems and used a walker to move around, WBBH reported. He had last been seen on his boat when it was docked at Island Bay Marina on Sept. 28, the day Hurricane Ian made landfall, according to the station.

A few days before, the body of an 82-year-old Florida woman who also went missing during Hurricane Ian was recovered Tuesday.

A contract debris removal company cleaning an area near Fort Myers Beach found the remains of Ilonka Knes “deep within the mangroves,” Marceno said at a news conference on Thursday.

“These areas are impassable by boat, and they’re not visible by the air,” he said.

Knes had lived with her husband, who had previously been found dead, in Fort Myers Beach, which was "completely destroyed" when Ian hit.

Relatives had requested a welfare check on Knes on Oct. 7, about a week after the hurricane, but deputies were unable to find her. She was declared missing on Oct. 15 after several efforts to locate her.

Her body was found months later 0.16 miles away from her home, Marceno said. The cause of death was determined to be accidental drowning.

At the time, he said Knes’ death had brought the total number of confirmed deaths in the county to 74, with Hurst being the final victim still missing.

Statewide, NBC News identified more than 140 deaths related to the hurricane