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May 5, 2014

Coast Guard intensifies search for former US Army Ranger

Wrangler Shane Leesman survived five tours of duty in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan, but is believed to have died while on vacation in Belize. On Thursday, April twenty-ninth, Leesman and a friend, Bradley Josker, ignored warnings of foul sea conditions and headed out to the reef off San Pedro in a kayak. They capsized near the reef and the wind and currents separated them. Josker was rescued by the Coast Guard five hours after, but Leesman remains missing. The search for the former Army Ranger has intensified as hope of finding him alive fades. The Coast Guard is orchestrating the intensive search and today Mike Rudon got an update.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The Coast Guard has played a leadership role in what is amounting to one of the largest search operations ever mounted. Former Army Ranger Wrangler Shane Leesman was last seen by his friend Bradley Josker at around eleven thirty in rough seas near the reef after their kayak capsized.

 

Lieutenant Greg Soberanis – Operations Officer, Belize Coast Guard

Wrangler Shane Leesman

“Last week Tuesday at approximately three-thirty in the afternoon, Coast guard received a call from one Miss Shrimer who had reported that she had cited a kayak adrift just outside the channel, approximately five mile north of San Pedro, an area known as the Mata-Grande Channel. She was not certain at the time if there were any persons in the water so she was calling the Coast Guard for assistance. We deployed our patrol unit that is stationed in San Pedro to the area to verify the information and to confirm if there were any bodies in the water. Upon arrival on the scene, the Coast Guard patrol found the kayak and began to conduct a search of the area.”

 

They found twenty-four year old Bradley Josker south of the position where the capsized kayak was located. He was exhausted…dehydrated and near death. Since then no expense or resource has been spared in mounting a multi-organizational grid search of the waters off San Pedro.

 

Greg Soberanis

Lieutenant Greg Soberanis

“We are in close liaison with our US counterparts through the military liaison office in country as well as the Maritime Coordination Center in Miami which is operated by the US Coast Guard. So there is a lot of coordination between ourselves, the US Embassy, the MLO in country, the Maritime Center in Miami as well as the civilian company, Astrum. As partner agencies, we have been coordinating our efforts in trying to locate Mister Leesman who has been missing now going on to eight days.”

 

Local tour groups are being asked to assist to ensure in wider coverage, and local volunteer divers are assisting. It is four of those local divers who found articles of clothing believed to belong to Leesman, near where the kayak capsized.

 

Lieutenant Greg Soberanis

“Yesterday, items were found. Local civilian divers who were operating in the area found two ball caps and a shredded light grey swim trunks. One hat was a grey hat with the ranger special forces emblem on it. Family-friends who are in country, who are also assisting with the dive, have confirmed that the emblem is the regiment that Mister Leesman was a part of—the ranger regiment that was a part of—and they believe that the grey swim trunk, which is a quick silver brand swim trunk, size thirty-one, they believe that that is also him. But that is yet to be confirmed.”

 

Even as time runs out, Leesman’s family and those searching for him are clinging to hope that the former Army Ranger could still be alive.

 

Lieutenant Greg Soberanis

“The average person based on the, being in water, the average person survival time is approximately three days, seventy-two hours. What we look at as the Coast Guard is the background of this individual. He is a trained military personnel; he is a special forces personnel; he is trained in survival at sea so his chances of surviving at sea is somewhat more extensive than the average individual. Hence the reason why we have extended or time in trying to find Mister Leesman. Definitely the will to survive along with his survival skills coupled together enhance his chances of survival at sea. Hence is the reason why we continue the efforts in trying to locate him.”

 

If Leesman is not rescued or recovered in the next day or two, the Coast Guard will revisit the situation to determine the next plan of action. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

Friends of Leesman have also flown into the country and are assisting in the search.

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