FORT MYERS, Fla. — Human remains recovered earlier this week are those of 82-year-old Ilonka Knes, the Lee County sheriff confirmed Thursday.
Speaking during a news conference, Sheriff Carmine Marceno explained that a welfare check was attempted on Knes back on Oct. 7 — just over a week after Hurricane Ian made landfall in the region as a Category 4 storm.
After unsuccessful attempts to locate her, the sheriff's office said she was listed as missing on Oct. 15
"Most homes in that area were completely destroyed," Marceno said.
Remains were found Tuesday on Tropical Shores Way in Fort Myers Beach by a contractor debris removal company, the sheriff said. The company called the sheriff's office, then the major crimes detective unit was dispatched to the area.
Marceno described the area as impassable, deep in the mangroves.
"These areas are impassable by boat, and they're not visible in the air," Marceno said.
Knes' remains were found just under a quarter-mile from her destroyed home — less than 300 yards away. Marceno said her cause of death, according to the medical examiner, was accidental drowning.
She was identified through dental records.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, as of Jan. 10, there have been 145 deaths attributed to Hurricane Ian confirmed by the medical examiners' commission spanning 19 counties. The county experiencing the highest number of deaths is Lee County, with 68 confirmed fatalities.
"We will leave no stone unturned," Marceno said.
Marceno said there is still one person unaccounted for following Hurricane Ian.
"Lee County is 1,260 square miles of land and sea," Marceno said. "We utilize all of our assets and the latest and greatest technology to search, inch by inch. The southwest Florida terrain can limit even the most advanced technology with tree canopies and waterways. But we move forward, and we always will."