Body of Missing Kayaker, 18, Found in New York: He Was a 'Gentle Giant'

A young kayaker was found dead just hours after he failed to return from a trip off the coast of New York over the weekend.

The body of Raistlin Ruther was recovered Saturday night after the 18-year-old went on a kayaking trip near South Jamesport on Long Island earlier that morning, according to a news release from the Riverhead Town Police Department.

Police said Ruther left around 8 a.m., and was reported missing just after 4 p.m. His capsized kayak was found around 7:40 p.m., and his body about an hour later.

Ruther — who was wearing a wetsuit and life jacket when his body and kayak were found in Hampton Bays — had called his grandmother just hours earlier to let her know he was enjoying his time on the water, his mother Laura Gandara told Newsday.

"Something happened after that," Gandara said.

Ruther had dreams of going into carpentry but his first love was outdoor adventures, Gandara said of her son, who graduated from Riverhead High School last year.

"[He] was such a well-mannered, polite boy," she told Newsday. "He was not your average 18-year-old."

A GoFundMe had been set up to raise funds for Ruther's funeral expenses.

"To lose someone like him is so difficult to accept," a family member wrote on the donation page. "He was your gentle giant, an old man's soul. I always told him how much I admired his maturity, independence, and adventurous spirit."

"When Raistlin left us, a little piece of us all left with him," the page said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the donation page has raised over $25,000.

According to a report by the U.S. Coast Guard, 125 people in the country died in 2019 from kayak/canoe related accidents.

Gandara told Newsday an autopsy into her son's death is pending, and the family is planning to hold a memorial service soon.

"He had absolutely no interest in trying any drugs — not smoking anything, not drinking anything. I just felt like I never had to worry about him," she said of her son. "I never did think that something terrible would happen to him."

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