Coast Guard Makes ‘Gut-Wrenching’ Call to End Search for Missing Florida Boys

Missing Teenage Boys of The Coast of South Florida
Photo Courtesy: UPI


JUPITER, Fla., July 31 (UPI) — The U.S. Coast Guard on Friday made what it said was a “gut-wrenching” decision to suspend the search for two missing teenage boys off the coast of south Florida — now more than a week after they vanished during a deep sea fishing trip.

The Coast Guard and volunteers have been searching for Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, both 16, since they were reported overdue on July 24. The boys set out in a 19-foot boat and told relatives they were going fishing, but they didn’t return.

 Coast Guard searchers found the boat overturned in the ocean last weekend, about 70 miles off the Ponce de Leon Inlet, but no sign of the teens. Officials decided to continue searching through the week, since they didn’t know when the boys may have went into the water.

Coast Guard Capt. Mark Fedor said earlier Friday that the search would be suspended at sunset unless any new leads surface in the search. By dusk, searchers had found nothing new.

“We believe we reached the limit for our effective search and rescue efforts,” Fedor said. “I do want to express my heartfelt condolences to the family.

“I hope at some point in the future [the families] can take solace from the fact that hundreds of people searched thousands of miles because we were desperately committed to find Austin and Perry.”

For the past week, the Coast Guard was assisted by the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense and local agencies from Florida and Georgia — as well as Bahamian police, military and air and sea rescue, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

So far, searchers have covered more than 50,000 square nautical miles with 30 aircraft, 31 vessels and three U.S. Navy ships, the Coast Guard said.

The families of the two boys said they will carry on with the search and have set up a fund to help cover the costs for private aircraft and boat fuel for the ongoing efforts.

Other than the boat, no trace of the teens has so far been found. Authorities said last weekend that a social media post indicated that perhaps the boys may have set out for the Bahamas. Now they believe severe weather may have factored into the boys’ disappearance.

“There was a potential for them to get caught [in a severe squall], or whether they were just disabled and drifting or maybe they capsized at that point. We don’t know,” Fedor said.

The massive search for the boys attracted the support of actor John Travolta, who is also a pilot, and pro football Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, who is a neighbor of one of the boys.

“We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to our families, friends, neighbors, colleagues, community, along with strangers from around the globe for your prayers and thoughts — as well as all that have contributed to the Perry and Austin Rescue Fund to ensure the boys’ safe return,” the families said in a statement Friday.


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