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Search for missing New York woman turns to recovery operation
Law enforcement officials continued their search Monday afternoon of the waters off St. George Island for a New York woman, who they believe may have drowned while swimming at the state park as early as Thursday morning.
Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith said personnel from his department, along with officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and staff from Dr. Julian Bruce St. George Island State Park, were conducting a search in the water and along the beach for the missing woman.
He said the search is being assisted from the air by a drone squad from the Florida Highway Patrol.
The sheriff’s office identified the woman as Staci Peterson, 33, from Saratoga County in upstate New York, just north of Albany.
Peterson, who is five-feet, four-inches tall with brown hair, is a graduate of Florida State University. Smith said she had taken a road trip to scatter her dog’s ashes in the Gulf of Mexico.
“We suspect she may have gone into the water and not come out,” said Smith. “We do not suspect any foul play.”
State park staff noticed Peterson’s rented Jeep sitting in the parking lot for two days, Friday and Saturday, and after notifying the sheriff’s office, the search began, Smith said. Her cellphone, wallet, keys and hotel key card were found on the beach.
On Thursday, the swimming conditions were a yellow flag, meaning it was a medium hazard, with moderate surf and currents.
“Not the worst conditions but certainly not the best,” Smith said, in a Facebook Live broadcast Monday morning. “Those of us who live here know how treacherous the waters can be even on a day that looks relatively calm.”
Assisted by the sheriff’s office newly acquired license plate readers, it was determined she had entered the county Thursday morning about 9 a.m., and the state park about an hour later.
“I think she went in the water to go for a swim or maybe waded out to put her dog’s ashes in,” Smith said.
The sheriff asked that anyone with information to contact the sheriff’s office at 850-670-8500.