‘Needle in a haystack’: Family thanks rescuers who found missing 78-year-old Jacksonville man alive after 3-day search

Germilus Nonord disappeared Tuesday and was located Thursday in a swampy area

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Rescuers used every resource they had — from helicopters and drones to canines and detectives — to find a missing 78-year-old Jacksonville man alive.

Germilus Nonord has dementia and disappeared around 6 p.m. Tuesday from his home on the Westside, and search and rescue teams found him deep in a swamp nearby around 4 p.m. Thursday. As of Friday, he was recovering in a hospital.

On Friday afternoon, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department held a news conference detailing the search efforts for Nonord. Jacksonville police teamed up with firefighters — calling in help from St. Johns, Nassau and Clay counties — to locate him.

Authorities held a news conference Friday afternoon on the search for a missing man who was found alive. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

“I knew how many people were out there,” said Wilbens Nonord, Germilus Nonord’s son. “I know it was a lot.”

His son told News4JAX that his father has dementia and speaks little English. And changing weather made the search more urgent. JFRD and JSO launched their joint Missing and Endangered Person Search and Rescue Program — or MEPSAR — which they debuted in 2021.

“When we go a couple of hours in a situation like that, we’re ramping it up because we know that time is of the essence, and it’s because of the hard work of these men and women behind me that make that happen,” said Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters.

Waters applauded the search and rescue teams who found the man in the woods in a thick swamp off Connie Jean Road 46 hours after he disappeared.

“It looked like an animal was moving it back and forth, but it just kept moving,” said JFRD Capt. Colin Aguilar.

Aguilar and JFRD Engineer A.K. Buchanan spotted him on a grid search and were first to reach him after trudging through water and mud all day.

“As we got closer, we could see he was there,” Aguilar said. “He was actually up under a log.”

Buchanan speaks a little Creole and was able to communicate with the weak and dehydrated man, carrying him to an ambulance.

“We said, ‘We’ve got you. We’re going to get you out of here. You’re going to be OK,’” Aguilar said.

One more night in the elements, and these veteran rescuers don’t think the outcome would have been good.

The Nassau County Sheriff's Office assisted in the search this week for the missing Jacksonville man who was found alive. (Nassau County Sheriff's Office)

His family is eternally grateful.

“I am overjoyed an appreciative of all the community, everyone that came out to help us look, all the volunteers, the sheriff’s department, the fire department,” Wilbens Nonord said.

On Friday, Germilus Nonord’s son and grandson thanked the hard-working first responders, knowing that without them, this would be a different story.

“It was like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Wilbens Nonord said.

While Germilus Nonord was recovering at the hospital as of Friday evening, he’s hoping to go home soon.

Since JSO and JFRD launched the MEPSAR program in May 2021. it’s been a model for other agencies across the country. Of the 96 MEPSAR searches in our area, according to officials, 95 resulted in them finding the missing persons.

UNCUT: Watch authorities’ full news conference sharing details about how rescuers found a missing Jacksonville man alive.

About the Author:

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