GARDEN CITY, Mich. (WXYZ) — A 35-year-old man from Michigan who was working construction in Florida has been identified as one of the victims of Hurricane Ian.
The body of Craig Markgraff Jr. was found by rescue crews on Oct. 4, five days after he was reported missing. He was last seen clinging to a tree on Sept. 29 as he tried escaping floodwaters. His death has been ruled a drowning.
“He was definitely someone you were drawn to,” Markgraff’s sister April Rudolph of Garden City said.
Markgraff, called C.J. by many of his friends, was known for living life to the fullest. His sister described him as “the best brother ever.”
"When I was in high school, I came out into the parking lot and my car had been broken into, and it was a shock to me,” Rudolph said. “So, I called my dad, and my brother was at the house. I didn't even know. He overheard the conversation and not even two seconds of hearing something happened, he's flying down the street to get to my school."
Rudolph spoke with WXYZ’s sister station WFTS in Tampa. Markgraff split time between Michigan and Florida, where he worked in construction. He decided to stay as Hurricane Ian approached.
Unlike the vast majority of Hurricane Ian’s victims who lived mostly along the coast near Fort Myers, Markgraff lived roughly 40 miles inland in a city called Zolfo Springs. It’s a city along the Peace River, which saw catastrophic flooding
"His house, he lives like on a creek and it had already had some flooding just before the storm even came. And he didn't know what was going to happen. It was kind of on the brink of too late to leave," Rudolph said.
The family last heard from Markgraff on the Sept. 28 when he said he was worried about the storm. A day later as flood waters reached his home, he was last seen clinging to a tree.
"I found out first and I did not want to tell my mom at all," Rudolph said.
Markgraff was one of three people killed by the storm in Hardee County. Since his death, his family has received widespread support on social media and from family and friends, who will miss him dearly.
"It's going to be a really difficult thing to deal with. But you know, you're supported and loved by so many people strangers you probably don't even know are there for you, rooting for you and they want everybody and everything to be OK," Rudolph said.