‘I’ll never stay again’: Crews continue to search for survivors, victims of Ian’s wrath in Fort Myers Beach

Survivors who opted to ride out storm say it’s not a choice they will make again

Days after Hurricane Ian tore through the area, leaving many buildings reduced to rubble and an astounding number of people without homes, search and rescue teams are still looking for survivors and finding those who did not make it.

FORT MYERS, Fla. – It’s painful to see the devastation left in Fort Myers Beach.

Days after Hurricane Ian tore through the area, leaving many buildings reduced to rubble and an astounding number of people without homes, search and rescue teams are still looking for survivors and finding those who did not make it.

News4JAX anchor and reporter Vic Micolucci and photojournalist Chris O’Rourke continued their journey through the devasted island with South Florida Urban Search and Rescue teams, FEMA, Miami Fire and Rescue and Miami police.

RELATED: ‘We’re just getting started’: Search and rescue teams comb Fort Myers Beach for those who survived, and those who didn’t

Families are not only torn apart through the destruction of their homes and property but some are losing loved ones.

Crews were going door-to-door, marking off every location and address to make sure if there is somebody potentially trapped, crews are going to get to them and get them the help that they need.

If they happen to find human remains on site, crews mark that as well so that the medical examiner can come and remove that person’s body.

First responders found another body Saturday while trying to execute recovery efforts. The firefighter said they were unable to identify if the person was a man or a woman or the circumstances that killed them, but it appears they were in a bathroom to protect themselves.

Crews were going door-to-door, marking off every location and address to make sure if there is somebody potentially trapped, crews are going to get to them and get them the help that they need.

Another block from that discovery, first responders found two more bodies, adding to the continuously growing death toll.

Fort Myers Beach was on a mandatory evacuation order ahead Ian making landfall. However, many residents decided to stay because they did not believe they would be directly hit by the storm.

Two residents who chose to ride out the storm said they would not recommend people follow in their footsteps in the future.

“It’s a feeling that you’re going to die. My advice to everybody: get out, don’t stay. It’s ridiculous. Don’t follow my lead. Just get out. You’ll be 10 times better,” Emmy Crespo said, looking directly into the camera.

Crespo said weathering the storm was the worst mistake he’d ever made.

Craig Ruke said he decided to stay because he underestimated the extent of the storm.

“We didn’t think it would be that bad. We thought it was going to go further north like Charley. I was here for Charley but this is worse than Charley, a lot worst,” Ruke said.

Ruke said the water reached his balcony on the second story of his home.

“It was like you could just dive right off the balcony. Water everywhere,” Ruke said. “I’ll never stay again.”

Micolucci found what used to be a marina -- a family-owned business that had stood for 50 years and seen plenty of storms, but unfortunately, nothing had damaged the marina as Ian had.

The building is completely ravaged by the strong winds, heavy rains and storm surge that Ian brought to the island.

Johnny Twofeathers, another storm survivor who rode the storm out in his apartment, said he’s faced quite a few storms but Ian was the worst one.

“I just want them to know if they see a storm coming, run, don’t wait it out,” Twofeathers said.

Twofeathers entire apartment building shifted into the parking lot and nothing can be salvaged as the result.

“To be up on the second story and the water almost comes up to your neck, that’s enough to scare anybody. I don’t care who you are,” Twofeathers said.

Friday was his 75th birthday, and he had no place to stay, barely any food and only the clothes on his back.

His closest family member is his daughter in Dallas. He hopes to get int touch with her soon.

Many other Southwest Florida residents share similar stories about how horrific it was to experience a storm of that magnitude.

First responders and search and rescue crews were still working relentlessly to rescue individuals by boats and helicopters to get them out of the hardest hit areas.


About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.

As a proud alumnus of Bethune-Cookman University, Kendra is a Jacksonville native, who loves all things lifestyle-related.