The U.S. Coast Guard is searching the waters off Florida’s east coast for two missing 14-year-olds who disappeared while fishing in the Atlantic Ocean. Their boat was found, capsized. AP
The U.S. Coast Guard said it was broadening its search for a pair of Florida 14-year-olds missing since Friday after their capsized boat was found on Sunday, 67 miles off Daytona Beach.
Police in Tequesta, Fla., 175 miles south, where the boys live, tweeted that the 19-foot boat had “no souls on board.”
Authorities said Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen were last seen about 1:30 p.m. ET Friday in the Jupiter, Fla., area, near Tequesta, buying $110 worth of fuel. They were reported missing about three and a half hours later.
By midday Sunday, the Coast Guard had searched more than 25,000 square nautical miles for the boys, Petty Officer Mark Barney told CNN.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Stephen Lehmann said the location of the boat prompted searchers to recalculate their plans, the South Florida Sun Sentinelreported.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday night, Lehmann said that when searchers found the boat, its engine cover was gone and one life jacket was on board, but that the boat wasn’t damaged. Nothing appeared to be missing.
The Coast Guard overnight planned to search an area roughly the size of Maine, Lehmann said. “This is an active search-and rescue case,” he said. “We maintain our perpetual optimism that we are going to find somebody.”
Although the two boys fish together often in the Jupiter Inlet area, they were not prepared for an extended outing, Barney said. “Initial reports were that they went to the Bahamas, but the family says they did not have supplies for that,” Barney told the Sun Sentinel. “They did not pack water or food for two days.”
He said the single-engine boat provided only a small area of cover over the center console.
Cohen’s stepfather, Nick Korniloff, told reporters on Sunday that the boys were experienced on the water but were not allowed to take the boat out into the ocean. He said the teens would have never been allowed to boat to the Bahamas alone, but a social media post from one of the boys led authorities to believe initially that they might have been headed there, according to the Coast Guard. They later learned from the boys’ parents that the pair typically do not go farther than an offshore ledge that drops 200 to 300 feet.
“After speaking to the parents, they’re pretty certain these boys wouldn’t have ventured that far off,” Barney said.
The search, using a Coast Guard C-130 airplane, a helicopter crew, an HR 144 plane, two U.S. Customs and Border Protection planes and two Coast Guard cutters, was “one of the longest and most intense searches I’ve seen in my three years here,” Barney said.
Carly Black, Stephanos’ mother, said on Sunday, “We are going to find them today. We are going to bring them home.”
The effort has even prompted NFL Hall of Famer Joe Namath, a neighbor of one of the boys, to offer a $100,000 reward. Namath said he hoped the appeal for information could help the search. He told reporters on Sunday that the boys are both skilled boaters. “We’ve got to believe in their wherewithal.
“We’ll keep on looking until we find them. We’re all praying. … The good Lord’s gotta help us out.”
Barney said many pilots and boaters had volunteered to help with the search, but that the offers were not necessarily welcome.
“Volunteers searching is one of the things we’re trying to discourage,” he said. “Although we appreciate people pitching in, we don’t want to create a dangerous situation and have people injured.”