Gantt kayaker still missing, fiancee pleads for help

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Family and friends of Brandon Hancock are asking the public for help in locating the 31-year-old who went missing early Monday in Gantt.

Early Monday morning, Hancock and a friend set out on a routine fishing trip. The two got separated during the trip and no one has seen or heard from Hancock.

“I dropped him and a friend off at Cypress Landing at 1 a.m., for them to go fishing,” Hancock’s fiancée, Erica Mitchell, said. “I went to a friend’s house close by and dozed off a little while waiting for them to get back.”

A few hours later, Mitchell said, Hancock’s friend returned alone.

“His friend woke me up around 3 a.m., and asked me if I had heard from Brandon,” Mitchell said. “He told me that he and Brandon got separated. When he couldn’t find Brandon, he came to the house to see if he was there.”

Mitchell said they continued to wait for Hancock before heading off to search.

“I just kept thinking he would come back,” Mitchell said. “When he still wasn’t back around the time he should have been, we went to Cypress Landing to see if he had gone back there. When he wasn’t there, we drove up to the next boat ramp.”

At the next boat ramp, Mitchell said, they spotted something in the water.

“We were at the boat ramp and I could see a kayak just drifting in the water,” Mitchell said. “There was a guy coming back pulling a canoe and Brandon’s friend borrowed it to go out and check the kayak. He was out there for a few minutes and then came back and said it was Brandon’s kayak, but Brandon wasn’t in it.”

The Covington County Sheriff’s Department was alerted to the situation and several agencies responded to assist in the search and rescue efforts.

The multiple agencies searched for several hours before calling off the search.

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s marine units, the Covington County EMA, Opp Fire Department, Covington County Sheriff’s Department, Coffee County Sheriff’s Department, Elba Fire Department, and the Alabama Game and Fish all participated in the search, according to the Opp Fire Department.

ALEA’s Trooper Spokesperson Kevin Cook said late Monday the agency had nothing to confirm anyone was actually missing.

“They came out and searched and we stayed out there until they said there wasn’t anything else we could do,” Mitchell said. “They told us to go home and they would let us know when something was found. They called me back up there later and I thought it was going to be saying that they found him, but they just wanted me to go through the stuff of his kayak to see if anything was missing.”

Mitchell said she did notice items missing from Brandon’s belongings.

“All of his fishing stuff was still on there, so I knew it didn’t tip over,” Mitchell said. “I noticed that his machete that he always takes and both of his flashlights were missing. He always has those when he goes fishing. It makes me wonder if he might have rolled out and maybe hit his head. Or that he injured himself and is lying in the woods because he can’t get to help.”

Mitchell said that she just wants Brandon home.

“I just want him home,” Mitchell said. “He has two little boys that are missing their daddy and I don’t know how to tell them what is going on. I’ve been up there today looking, but I don’t have a way to get back up in those areas that he might have been. If anyone knows or sees anything, please contact the Covington County Sheriff’s Department.

“Right now, more than anything we just want Brandon home,” she said.