Prayers and memories shared at candlelight memorial for Nik Kayler

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee community gathered at Scott Driver park on the evening of Jan. 10, for a candlelight vigil held in honor of Nik Kayler, the fisherman who went missing during the second day of the Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) Costa Series Tournament held on Lake Okeechobee, Jan. 4-6.

After an exhaustive six-day search, Mr. Kayer’s body was recovered from the lake near Clewiston in the early morning of Jan. 10 by a commercial vessel.

Nik Kayler

At the vigil, which was organized by Tiffany Prevost, friends and family told their favorite stories about Nik and listened to music chosen by Nik’s wife, Kelly Kayler.

“This event was planned to be an event full of hope and prayers,” said Mrs. Prevost. “When news broke that Nik was found, out of respect I reached out to the family to see if they wanted the event canceled. Nik’s wife Kelly said she wanted it to continue as planned. My heart was hurting for the family and the agony they were going through. I just wanted help in some way to show them our love and support.”

Nik Kayler’s brother, Philip Kayler (center right), and Nik’s wife, Kelly Kayler (center left), embrace at the candlelight vigil held on Jan. 10 to honor the fisherman who went missing during a tournament held on Lake Okeechobee. Photo by Richard Marion

Nik was a veteran who served six years in the army as a door gunner on a blackhawk helicopter, receiving two air medals for his service. Okeechobee County Commissioner Bryant Culpepper, also a veteran, was one of the many people who spoke at the vigil.

“When I’m asked to do something like this for a fellow veteran like Nik,” said Commisoner Culpepper, “it really touches my heart. I guarantee you Kelly, that Nik may be out of your sight, but he will never be out of your life. He will be there for you and your beautiful child.

He’ll be there forever for you. We here in Okeechobee extend our love to you and your family. Whatever you need, we’re here for you.”

The search for Nik involved numerous agencies all around Lake Okeechobee, including the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, United States Coast Guard, and the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC).

In an official statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Florida Wildlife Commission offered condolence to the families affected by the incident.

“All of the members of the FWC want to express our sincere sympathies to the victims and families of the victims involved in this incident,” said FWC spokesperson Carol Lyn Parrish.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

According to the FWC the incident is still under investigation.

A Go Fund Me established to raise money for Nik’s wife and daughter has already raised more than $65,000 dollars, blowing by the original goal of $15,000. Over a thousand people have donated, in ranges from as low as $10 to as high as $475.

Michael Gonzalez, Nik’s friend as well as a fellow angler and veteran, spoke to the crowd gathered at Scott Driver park near the end of the ceremony.

“I’ve know Nik for ten years,” said Mr. Gonzalez, “and he’s been practically my best friend.

This is hard for everybody, to lose someone like this is the worst feeling. Now we all have this big hill to climb together as anglers and as family. We’re gonna be there for Kelly, and we’re gonna make sure that everything Nik wanted for his little girl and his wife happens. I appreciate all the anglers, FWC, the city of Okeechobee, and just everyone for what you did. It was a sincere honor to have met Nik and to be his friend.”

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