Missing kayaker 'smart, optimistic young man'

Nearly a week following his disappearance off Hornby Island, the family of 16-year-old kayaker Orlando Graham believes he was the victim of a tragic accident.

Speaking on behalf of the family, friend Peter Addison posted on his blog Tuesday the family — including Graham's parents — believes he was caught in a sudden weather pattern that even a far more experienced paddler would have difficulty navigating.

"We believe he fought hard, but was taken by the sea and dangerous circumstances," he notes.

According to Comox Valley RCMP, Graham was last seen entering the water at Sandpiper Beach in a red kayak June 29, but failed to return after dark.

Graham's kayak was discovered early Thursday morning with a pair of shoes and his floatation jacket inside.

Addison describes Graham as a "smart, optimistic young man."

"He was so happy to have acquired his new kayak, and paddled it all the way to south Hornby from Courtenay just a week and a half before this tragic accident. Orlando had been paddling for several years, and it was his passion to own his boat; paid for with his own money," he adds.

On the day he left, Addison notes Graham was in good spirits, planning an afternoon and evening paddle, taking a bit of food and asking his mother which water bottle to take.

Despite being a graduate of a paddling course, Addison says Graham "wasn't a heavily experienced paddler" and was not a strong swimmer.

Along with 58 searches, RCMP note they have worked with 13 members from the fire department, one RCMP dog, one helicopter, a military plane, seven Coast Guard boats, one RCMP boat, one ground search and rescue boat, two civilian boats and four RCMP officers in the search.

Addison writes the family wishes to thank to the search and rescue teams who have contributed to the search.

"We will focus on the love and on the amazing life experience of knowing Orlando, he was a very wonderful person to know," he notes.

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