A 17-year-old Tallahassee youth reported missing on Saturday morning from his family’s Apalachicola weekend home has returned home safe.


A 17-year-old Tallahassee youth reported missing on Saturday morning from his family’s Apalachicola weekend home has returned home safe.



Apalachicola Police Chief Bobby Varnes said the sheriff’s office, the Apalachicola Police Department and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were all involved in a brief search for Riley Dennis, who had been last seen at about 11 p.m. Friday.



The boy’s mother, Karen Cox Dennis, said she called 911 Saturday morning about 10:30 a.m. after finding her son’s clothing on the end of a family-owned pier and evidence that he had walked away through the mud.



Varnes said authorities immediately launched a full-blown search after receiving the call. Franklin County’s Wireless Emergency Notification System issued a countywide alert just prior to noon Saturday.



At about 2 p.m., recreational boaters later spotted the Dennis boy unclothed and muddy, waving a marker from a sea turtle nest on the bay side of St. Vincent Island.



Varnes said investigators believe the young man walked and swam from his home to the island.



The boy’s mother said her son told his parents he had decided to take a midnight swim, in the buff, to face his fear of dark water and was caught in a rip current. He said he swam and floated for almost seven hours before coming ashore on the island where he found a spring and drank. He then smeared himself with mud to avoid sunburn and mosquitoes and curled up in pine straw for a short sleep before flagging down the boatload of recreational fishermen from Cape San Blas.



A family friend on the scene when he returned home said the boy was not sunburned and did not appear to be injured.



Varnes said the family was grateful for the boy’s return and the missing youth appeared to be sorry to have caused so much excitement. “We were just so happy he was found,” said Varnes. “I was amazed; I didn’t expect it.”



The young man’s family took him to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital for an examination after he was returned home.



Cox-Dennis thanked the community for their support in the crisis. ‘My husband and I and our family extend our heartfelt gratitude to our kind neighbors, the Apalachicola Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, and the coordinated efforts of Lt. Wood and the FWC, and Mr. Long and family and friend, who rescued him from St. Vincent Island,” she said,