LCSO: Body of Missing Paddleboarder Recovered

After a three-day search, the body of woman who didn’t return from a paddleboarding outing Oct. 15 was recovered Sunday at Beaverdam Reservoir near Ashburn.

Leilani Funaki was reported missing by her husband around 7:12 p.m. Thursday. Members of the Sheriff’s Office and Loudoun County Fire-Rescue Combined System searched the reservoir with the help of the Virginia State Police, Search and Rescue K9 teams and the Fairfax County Police Department’s helicopter. Rescue teams recovered Funaki’s body from the reservoir on Sunday morning.

Sheriff’s Office Public Information Office Kraig Troxell said Funaki was not wearing a lifejacket when she paddled into the reservoir last Thursday.

Alex Lecuona, the owner and head instructor of the Paddle NOVA paddleboard and kayak company, said he knew Funaki and that she had rented equipment from the company a few times. Lecuona said it’s uncommon for paddleboarders to find themselves in dangerous situations, especially on the Beaverdam Reservoir where the water is typically calm and absent of a current.

However, Lecuona said he observed the winds pick up around dusk the evening Funaki was reported missing.

“This is a very, very rare situation,” Lecuona said.

Lecuona, who founded Paddle NOVA in 2014, said safety is the company’s number-one priority and that wearing a lifejacket is at the top of the list. He said it doesn’t matter if a paddleboarder is a strong swimmer because winds can quickly put them in a hypothermic condition. Although the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources requires people aboard all boats—including paddlecraft—to possess a lifejacket when out on the water, there exists no requirement to actually wear them.

“The best place to have a life jacket when you most need it is to have it on you. … They’re there for a reason,” Lecuona said, noting that a paddleboard can additionally be used as a buoyancy aid.

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