The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office (SJSO) said the remains found on the beach Sunday, Oct. 15 in the 3,000 block of South Ponte Vedra Boulevard have been positively identified as those of missing swimmer Dale Robert Kopf, who was last seen Thursday, Oct. 12.
Kopf, 47, was a St. Augustine resident. Following an autopsy, Dr. Deanna Oleske of the District 23 Medical Examiner’s Office has determined that the cause of death was drowning, and the manner of death was accidental.
The swimmer was last seen in the ocean body surfing shortly before 7 p.m. on Oct. 12 in the 2,900 block of South Ponte Vedra Boulevard. According to St. Johns County Fire Rescue Public Information Officer Jeremy Robshaw, Kopf entered the water with another individual. That individual came ashore, however, returned to the beach and then could not locate Kopf.
According to a SJSO police report, deputies responded to a call from personnel at St. Johns County Fire Station 9 regarding a fight in the public parking lot nearby the beach. When authorities arrived, they didn’t find a fight, however. The onsite deputy went to the beach, saw two males body surfing close to shore and waved for them to come in.
One of the two swam to the beach, SJSO said, and advised the deputy that there was no fight. The individual said he had been “rough housing” with his friend, Kopf. At the time, the deputy could still see Kopf body surfing in the water. The deputy said he even gave the other individual the middle finger from the water and appeared to be laughing and having fun. The deputy said in the report he smelled alcohol on the individual’s breath and asked if they had been drinking. He told the deputy he was not drinking and that Kopf does not drink, in general.
The other individual that was with Kopf told the deputy he had locked his keys in his vehicle, and that they were waiting for his wife to come and pick them up, according to the report. The deputy told the individual he’d be waiting in the parking lot to ensure he didn’t drive because the deputy was suspicious of his sobriety. As the deputy walked up to the parking lot, he said he saw Kopf still swimming in the water.
While sitting in his vehicle, the deputy saw the other individual in the parking lot area walking between the bathroom and beach access ramp. Shortly after, the deputy said another citizen at the beach came up to him to alert him that Kopf had suddenly gone missing. In the report, the deputy writes that the other individual did not return to the water after his initial contact with him. He said that the individual would not have had enough time to go back in the water and be back in the parking lot by the time the deputy returned to the patrol vehicle.
The deputy said the other individual informed him that Kopf has seizures and does not drive, so he had no other means of transportation to get home. Kopf’s cousin was then alerted, and she arrived to the scene. She told SJSO that Kopf is estranged from any other family.
Resources from the Sheriff’s Office, Fire/Rescue, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Coast Guard searched for Kopf by air, boat and ground but were unable to find him. His remains were located the morning of Oct. 15 at 10 a.m. on the beach.