Austin-area Army Ranger missing off coast of Belize

(KXAN) — An Army Ranger from Pflugerville missing off the coast of Belize, authorities in Texas confirmed.

Wrangler Leesman and a friend were on a small kayak off the coast on Tuesday when it flipped over, according to the San Pedro Sun newspaper in Belize.

His friend, Bradley Evans Josker, was located by Coast Guard officials and told police strong winds and high waves knocked them from the kayak, the paper said. The two were holding on to the kayak when another wave hit them and they became separated.

Leesman has not been seen since.

Friends told KXAN that Leesman had survived tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, a helicopter crash and was at Fort Hood during the recent shootings on post.

“Wrangler is a fighter and if anyone has a chance of making it out of it, it would be him,” said Cody Johnson, one of Wrangler’s friends who lives in Austin. “I would definitely bet on it. I don’t want anybody to give up looking for him because he would surprise a lot of people.”

Johnson is keeping in contact with Josker through Facebook and trying to stay updated on the search.

“[He’s] pretty much the toughest guy I know,” said Johnson.

Another friend, Jimmy Bruinsma,says Wrangler’s dad lives in central Texas. Bruinsma says he wants the state department to put pressure on Belize to continue the search Friday, if it is needed.

Bruinsma said the search Thursday was supposed to end at sundown.

“We’ll watch and wait and learn and I personally will say some prayers for him and the family,” said Karla Hosick, who lives near Bradley and Wrangler’s home.

Friends say Wrangler grew up in the Houston area and attended Foster High School near Richmond.

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