Fitness instructor Eiffel Gilyana, who vanished on canoe surfing trip, found dead


The body of a beloved Florida Army veteran who went missing during a canoe surfing trip over the weekend was located Tuesday, loved ones said.

Eiffel Gilyana, 46 — who vanished during a group outing Saturday morning — was found dead off Vilano Beach on Tuesday afternoon, friends said.

“Words cannot express the hollowness that engulfs us all, the crushing weight of a future forever etched with his absence,” a friend wrote of Gilyana on a GoFundMe page that had raised more than $70,000 as of Wednesday morning.

The Coast Guard launched a search for him Saturday but suspended the effort after 48 hours, while volunteers continued to comb the waters for any sign of the accomplished fitness instructor and former competitive bodybuilder.

The Iraqi native served in the US military from 2003 to 2009 as a translator.

Gilyana eventually settled in Jacksonville to avoid retribution from ISIS over his assistance to US forces, according to reports.

Gilyana went missing off St. Augustine on Saturday. Eiffel Gilyana/Facebook
Gilyana’s canoe was found broken in half. Rick Van Rickley/Facebook

He soon became a successful fitness instructor, and was known for grueling endurance feats.

The experienced kayaker once completed a 150-mile journey from Miami to Key West.

Gilyana served as health coordinator for the local Jewish Community Alliance, which noted his dedication and accomplished background in a bio.

The fitness instructor was a former bodybuilder and US Army veteran. Eiffel Gilyana/Facebook
The native of Iraq moved to Jacksonville after serving as a translator.
Crews searched for Gilyana for two days before suspending the mission. Action News Jax

Adam Chaskin, CEO of the Jewish Community Alliance, mourned his loss Tuesday.

“Eiffel wasn’t just the fitness and wellness director at the JCA. He wasn’t just a personal trainer,” Chaskin said. “He became part of people’s families and people became part of his family. He just has such a warm heart and so many people connected so easily, and so well with him over the years.”

In addition to his work with the group, Gilyana served as health and wellness adviser for Task Force Hydro 1, a nonprofit group that works with veterans and emergency workers.

“We will mourn him deeply, but we will also celebrate the gift of his existence, the light he brought to our world, and the legacy of love he leaves behind,” the GoFundMe page stated.


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