Joshua Grant Hensley’s body was discovered by local marine officials on Monday, just two days after he was last seen heading out to the water on his paddleboard in Crystal River, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office announced on Facebook.
Though the paddleboarding veteran, 43, had been out on the water hundreds of times, he sadly never made it back to land and has now left Florida officials wondering what happened to the man who they say was a “beloved figure in the community.”
A spokesperson for the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office revealed early Monday morning that Hensley was still missing after Hunter Springs Park Rangers saw him going paddleboarding around 6:30 p.m on Saturday.
The spokesperson said park rangers grew concerned on Sunday evening and decided to contact the sheriff’s office when they noticed Hensley’s car had stayed in the Hunter Springs parking lot overnight.
Authorities believe Hensley, who was dressed in his Captain Jack Sparrow outfit at the time of his disappearance, was heading to Shell Island to watch the sunset but have not found any evidence indicating that he made it to his alleged destination.
They did, however, find Hensley’s paddleboard on Monday in King’s Bay near Pete’s Pier.
The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office Aviation and Marine Units searched the waters for Hensley and revealed just three hours after their initial post that they had located his body in the waters of Kings Bay.
Confirming the tragedy in a follow-up statement on Facebook, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said authorities are currently investigating the incident but expressed their devastation over the loss of Hensley.
“We offer our deepest condolences to Joshua’s family and friends in this difficult time,” the spokesperson wrote. “‘Captain Jack’ was a beloved figure in the community and will be missed.”
Hensley, a native of Crystal River, owned his own paddleboarding company called Big Foot Paddle Boards, where he also designed custom boards and kayaks for customers.
In an eerie final post on the company’s Facebook page, Hensley said he was “ready to go have fun on the water” and shared a photo of himself in his Captain Jack Sparrow attire holding up his paddleboard.
Following the tragic news, many paid tribute to Hensley and remembered him for brightening up the Florida waters with his Captain Jack Sparrow costumes and friendly nature.
“We will sure miss seeing him around the waters making sure everyone has a good time. Crystal River has lost a good one!” wrote one user on Facebook, while another added, “Captain Jack was loved by many and he was so good to all the kids!”
“He was such a kind person and the kids loved seeing him at hunter springs very sad to hear this,” added someone else.
“Thank you Captain Jack (Joshua) for the amazing memories, for always stopping and doing tricks for my grandkids. The river will not be the same. Thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of this amazing man. RIP Captain..,” commented another user.
“We loved the entertainment he did for the community and he always was kind and did the festivals. He made everything nice here,” noted someone else.
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Hensley’s sister-in-law Erika also wrote in her own tribute on Facebook: “We always had great times in the trees together, the Springs, or the caves. Whatever we were exploring, you always encouraged me to go for it, even when I was scared. Especially all those times on Weeki Watchee when the trees were so freaking high I thought I was going to orbit the earth. I’m going to miss you a lot my dude. Every time I’m in the trees, in the water, or on an adventure… I’ll think of you. 🌳❤️”
A celebration of life has been scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. ET, where Hensley’s loved ones plan to remember him “for the amazing man he was.”
“We will be encouraging everyone to come and tell their favorite stories of Josh, give hugs, and send little fiery boats out into the water he loved,” the Facebook event’s description reads. “We would appreciate if everyone would write a special message to Josh in your boats as well.”
Hensley leaves behind two young daughters, Kalissa and Jaiden. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up on their behalf to help the girls with their “transition into their adult lives.” Those interested in donating to the campaign can do so here.