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‘Keep helping, keep getting involved’: Dozens gather at prayer vigil for missing canoer as search expected to resume

A prayer vigil was held Monday for a missing 46-year-old canoer who was last seen on Saturday morning near the St. Augustine inlet...READ THE FULL STORY HERE▶

Eiffel Gilyana’s family and friends are praying for a miracle and not giving up hope.

Gilyana works at the Jewish Community Alliance as the fitness and wellness director. Although the U.S. Coast Guard Southeast suspended the search on Sunday night, Task Force Hydro 1 is planning to resume the search on Tuesday morning.

A rainy Christmas Day didn’t stop dozens of people from coming out to Vilano Beach to pray for Gilyana. He went out with a group of paddlers and the group lost sight of him eventually his canoe was found damaged without any sign of Gilyana.

Leonardo Yui has been friends with him for only a few years but says his impact on his life is one of a lifelong friend.

“One way to describe Eiffel is just as a man of faith, a loving father, just a loving person. If any of us was out there missing he will be the one out there searching as well,” Yui said.

PREVIOUS STORY: Search suspended for 46-year-old missing man near the St. Augustine Inlet

Yui says he met Gilyana in 2021 when Gilyana wanted to learn how to surf with his oldest daughter. Eventually, Gilyana started volunteering, which was helpful since he has a background in fitness.

“He became part of the outrigger team and huge supporter so he just little by little got involved and he was all about just paying it forward and giving back to the community,” Yui said. “I just want to ask the community to keep helping, keep getting involved, keep praying, and just always be on the lookout. That’s really all we can do for now.”

Gilyana was last seen wearing black pants, with no life jacket or shirt.

JCA’s CEO, am Chaskin, released a statement about Gilyana Sunday saying in part, “It is with deep regret and immense sadness that we share an update on the welfare of our JCA Fitness and Wellness Director Eiffel Gilyana. […] The U.S. Coast Guard and other emergency officials searched for Eiffel Saturday and Sunday morning to no avail. We are in direct contact with the U.S. Coast Guard and continue to pray for answers as to Eiffel’s whereabouts. During this truly difficult time, we hold Eiffel’s family, friends, Task Force Hydro1 teammates, clients and our JCA community close in prayer.

The search will continue Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. The meeting place will be at 446 Ocean Vista Avenue in St. Augustine.

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Kylian Walterlin

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