Search Called Off for Missing Montville Kayaker

The search has been called off for the Montville man who disappeared while fishing and kayaking on the Thames River on Sunday morning, the U.S. Coast Guard said. 

Emergency crews recovered Lyle Dagenais' kayak on Monday and a search continued for the man until sunset. 

Family members said they last saw Dagenais, 31, around 11 a.m. Sunday when he left for the fishing trip, but after he did not return, the family reported him missing around 11:30 p.m., according to Connecticut State Police. 

State police determined there was a missing person on the water and alerted the coast guard and a search began around 1:30 a.m., according to Patrick White, assistant operations officer at the U.S. Coast Guard New London.

The family told police Dagenais left home around 11 a.m. on Sunday with three fishing poles, a tackle box and a gray and orange 11-foot kayak.

Dagenais’ vehicle was found at a boat launch in Montville on Dock Road without the kayak or the fishing poles.

On Monday search crews recovered a kayak from the river around 11 a.m. and said it had a fishing rod and fish finder in it. State police said the kayak belonged to Dagenais. 

Sgt. Chris Dwyer, with State Environmental Conservation Police, said people saw the boat floating around 3 p.m. Sunday, carried it to shore at the Yale Boathouse and reported it to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Monday morning.

Multiple agencies, including Ledyard and Montville police, the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy police, Connecticut State Police, Gales Ferry and Montville fire crews have been searching the river and surrounding areas for Dagenais. The command post is on Dock Road in Montville.

The U.S. Coast Guard said they had a helicopter involved in the search and Connecticut State Police said Trooper 1 is also flying to assist in the search.

White said there has been no sign on the water of Dagenais yet, but he could be on land somewhere.

Dagenais is described as 5 feet 8 inches, 140 pounds and clean-shaven with brown hair. He was last seen wearing a gray “I Love NY” hooded sweatshirt, dark pants and hiking boots. He might also be wearing a hat.

A neighbor said Dagenais is an avid fisherman; both residents live near the water.

"He likes to fish out there- actually I saw him catch a big fish one day out there,” said Shaun Jones of his neighbor.

Jones said can’t imagine Dagenais not coming home.

“He’s a good man. He likes helping,” Jones said. “He comes over here and helps. Just the other day with the snow, he helped clear out the driveway."

“I just hope that they find him. I just hope he comes home,” Jones added.

State Environmental Conservation Police said the Thames River is calm but it’s only 40 degrees, making it very unsafe if someone fell in.

White, with the Coast Guard Station New London, said hypothermia could set in quickly.

“Based on what he was wearing, the sweatshirt and possibly khakis, with the water temp, he probably would have had only had about 15 to 30 minutes," White said.

Crews are also trying to find out whether Dagenais was wearing a life jacket. In Connecticut, it is mandatory to wear a personal flotation device between October 1 and May 31, in a manually propelled vessel, according to DEEP.

White urges anyone who goes out on the water in these conditions, including to have the proper equipment, including a personal locator beacon, which can help in a search like this.

"Not saying he wasn't prepared but when you go out on the water, for future reference, make sure you're prepared with the right equipment. Making sure you have all your distress signals," White said.

The coast guard said they would continue the search if new information arises. 

NBC Connecticut stopped by Dangenais’ home and the woman who answered the door did not want to comment.

Anyone with information or who thinks they spot Dagenais is asked to call state police Troop E at (860) 848-6500.

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