Father: Missing kayaker 'brought joy to people'

UNF student has been missing since Saturday; Coast Guard suspends search


JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – One day after the Coast Guard called off its ocean search for kayaker Garth Sangree, who's been missing since Saturday night, his father spoke to News4Jax about the apparent loss of his son.

Mark Sangree rushed to Jacksonville from Tennessee two days ago after hearing about his son's disappearance.

Tearfully over the phone, Garth Sangree's father said he remains optimistic but realizes the the probability of his son surviving this long is very unlikely.
The search for Garth Sangree spanned more than 4,000 miles and continued for more than 72 hours. After the Coast Guard suspended its search for the 22-year-old UNF student Tuesday night, his dad said he realized Garth might never come home.
"Survival on top of a kayak, in seas 8-10 feet is very limited," Mark Sangree said. "That chance of survival in those elements, you have to accept the fact that it's not likely."
Garth Sangree told friends that he planned on kayaking near the Jacksonville Beach pier on Saturday night. But when he didn't show up for church Sunday morning, his friends and family reported him missing. Mark Sangree said his son made a decision at 7 years old to commit his life to God. He said his son was genuinely kind and did all he could to help others.

"Garth had a countenance about him when he walked into a room where he instantly brought joy to people," Mark Sangree said. "And that countenance, I identified long ago, is a reflection of his love for Jesus."

Mark Sangree believes weather played a factor in his son's disappearance, saying something must have overwhelmed his son's athleticism and his strong will to survive. The Coast Guard said even though it has suspended the search, searchers will start again if they receive a new clue.

"When we suspend a case, it's indefinite, but if we find new evidence that reopens this case, we are going to do that," Steve Lehmann said.

"It is well with my soul, though my spirit is sad. God is good and God is in control," Mark Sangree said.
Mark Sangree said it is odd that search crews were unable to locate the lime-green and white kayak his son was believed to be in when he disappeared, because he said it was an unsinkable ocean kayak.

A memorial service is tentatively planned for Garth Sangree in Jacksonville on Saturday, and another is planned for his parents' home in Boca Raton next Tuesday. 

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