PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A search for a missing 57-year-old man in the Guana River Wildlife Management Area ended tragically Tuesday when his body was found, St. Johns County deputies said.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office deployed a “tremendous amount of resources” Tuesday morning after an overnight search for Mark Meihofer was unsuccessful Monday.
Officials say Meihofer, a Ponte Vedra resident, biked on the trails of the park often.
The Sheriff’s Office bike unit, mounted unit and ATVs were used in the search.
St. Johns County confirmed “marine assets” also took part in the search in Ponte Vedra, which began when an FWC patrol officer found Meihofer’s vehicle Monday in the park after normal hours. The officer became concerned when Meihofer didn’t return to his car and the officer notified the Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies did a brief search overnight in the dark, and then began an extensive full-scale search alongside the FWC when the sun came up Tuesday.
The joint operation continued until Meihofer’s body was found Tuesday afternoon in the park. No foul play is suspected in his death.
His body was removed from the park and an autopsy will be performed by the Medical Examiner to determine his cause of death.
“The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Wildlife Commission offer our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Meihofer and ask that you respect their privacy at this time,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. “The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office would also like to thank all of our agency partners and personnel who worked diligently to find Mr. Meihofer.”
Jacksonville resident David Johnson said he hikes the Guana trails once a week and was in the area Tuesday to hike before he learned the trails were closed for the investigation.
He said it’s hard to get lost on the trails because they’re marked.
“They’re all pretty flat. Some are 1, 2 miles, 3 miles, 5 miles. They’re all marked: yellow, red, purple, green trail, blue trail,” Johnson said. “They’re not dangerous as long as you don’t trip over tree roots. You’ve just got to watch your step.”
He said there is cellphone service on the trails.