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Body thought to be lost vinyl inventor

Searchers combing the dense woods of the Avon Park Bombing Range on Thursday found a body they believe to be that of an 80-year-old Fort Myers man who had been missing since July 16.

The body was found in a shallow creek about 10:45 a.m. about a mile from where Michael Yakubik's station wagon was found Wednesday morning.

"It looks like him; we believe it's him," said Polk County sheriff's spokeswoman Sonya Dodds. "We'll leave final identification to the medical examiner."

Yakubik, who had Alzheimer's disease, probably died earlier this week, officials said. An autopsy is scheduled for today. Investigators don't suspect foul play.

Detectives said it appeared that Yakubik, a retired chemical engineer who helped invent vinyl, took off his pants, which were found about 200 yards from his body, and sought refuge in the creek from the sun, heat or insects, Dodds said. Yakubik's wallet and identification were in his pants.

His abandoned car was discovered Wednesday morning in remote southeasternmost Polk County.

Yakubik had been traveling around the state in his 1995 Chevrolet station wagon. He was seen in Okeechobee, bought gasoline in Belle Glade and asked a police officer in Tampa for directions back to Fort Myers, said Lee County sheriff's Capt. Mike Clifton.

"He's been moving around a little bit," Clifton said. "He's an Alzheimer's patient. He went for a drive and just kept going."

Dodds said Yakubik had retired from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., where he helped to invent vinyl, a type of plastic used to make many items including upholstery, records, tile and pipe.

Authorities are trying to determine why Yakubik was on the bombing range, where Air Force pilots make practice bombing runs during weekends, Dodds said.

His car was found Wednesday in the middle of the range, about three-quarters of a mile off a road.

More than three dozen deputies from the Polk and Highlands county sheriff's offices searched dense woods with the help of bloodhounds, all-terrain vehicles and aircraft.

While following a scent Wednesday afternoon, a Highlands County bloodhound was attacked by an alligator hidden in a culvert and suffered cuts on its front leg, Dodds said. The dog was treated by a veterinarian.