Former Army Ranger from Richmond lost at sea in Belize

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by Alice Barr / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on May 1, 2014 at 7:24 PM

Updated Friday, May 2 at 11:31 AM

RICHMOND, Texas -- A Texas man disappeared while kayaking in Belize. Friends of Wrangler Leesman don't think enough is being done to find him, but they believe if anyone can survive, it's Leesman.

In a home in Richmond, a group of friends is glued to their phones and computers.

"Just looking on Facebook, looking in the Belize news," said friend Jamie Morgan.

It's all they can do while they wait for news of their friend Wrangler Leesman.

He disappeared on Tuesday, 1,000 miles away near an island off the coast of Belize, where he was on vacation with a friend.

"He texted me right before they went out and said we’re going to go try and kayak and fight the waves," said Morgan.

But those waves were too strong. The kayak flipped. Rescuers found Leesman's friend and the kayak within hours, but there's still no sign of Leesman.

"Hopefully they can find him,” said Leesman’s friend Chris Micheli. “I know he’s strong enough to make it."

Wrangler graduated from Foster High School in Richmond in 2003. He was always the fastest and the strongest one around and that’s helping his friends keep their hope going.

"I’ve always seen him as a little superman, being bulletproof," said Leesman’s friend Jimmy Bruinsma.

It's a trait tested in some of the most dangerous places on earth, because Leesman is a former Army Ranger. He served five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Wrangler is a war hero,” said Bruinsma, “He’s been on countless missions."

Bruinsma served by his side, or maybe a step behind, because he said Leesman was always, "Just a very strong leader, especially physically, real level-headed."

Bruinsma is hopeful their survival training, and Leesman’s sheer strength, can keep him going. But time is running short and friends say the country Leesman loves needs to repay his service.

"He served the country for years, he’s still helping out. I believe the United States should be down there for sure searching -- he’s one of us," said Micheli.

For now friends will keep hoping. They know it’s a final lifeline that Leesman desperately needs.

Friends tell KHOU11 Belize authorities have just two boats and an airplane searching now. Friends want that force to grow.

They’re also planning a candlelight vigil Saturday, May 3 at 7:30 p.m. outside Lamar Consolidated High School.

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