Missing Alabama football coach found safe in Gulf of Mexico after nearly 12-hour search

Published 11:55 am Friday, March 29, 2024

An Alabama high school football coach who went missing while he kayaked in the Gulf of Mexico was found after a 12-hour search.

Sylacauga High School head football coach Chris Smelley was located Thursday night off Grayton Beach after strong winds forced him many miles out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Walton County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office deputies said they located Smelley, 37, uninjured and still safely in his kayak approximately 12 hours after he first got in the kayak at approximately 8:30 a.m.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter found Smelley through the use of a thermal camera. The Coast Guard crew communicated with a nearby boat whose captain went to the position and retrieved Smelley.