Coast Guard says search continues for boys lost at sea

Agency tweets update after AP source says search suspended

(US Coast Guard)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Coast Guard said it is not suspending the search for two teenage boaters missing off Florida, despite an AP report to the contrary.

[PHOTOS:  Coast Guard searches for missing boaters]

The Coast Guard tweeted that the search is ongoing minutes after The Associated Press cited a source saying the search had been suspended.

"#breakingnews the search for missing 14 YOs is an open and active search-and-rescue effort. This case has not been suspended," the Coast Guard tweeted.

Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, both 14, were last seen Friday on their 19-foot boat near Jupiter Inlet. Their boat was later discovered off the Central Florida coast near Ponce Inlet.

Air Force Reserve search and rescue personnel from the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base joined the Coast Guard in the search for the teens on Tuesday night.

A rescue crew departed from Patrick Air Force Base in one of the wing's HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters Tuesday at approximately 8 p.m. for a four-hour search off the coast of Cape Canaveral.

Another rescue crew departed at approximately 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to continue the search.

A vigil was held Tuesday night in Stuart, near the place the teens were last seen.

The hundreds who joined the vigil made it clear that they hadn't given up hope.

Organizer Cory Ritz said as a parent of two children, she feels the pain of the families.

"I can't even imagine," she said.


Isabella Murgio, a friend of the boys who organized the vigil, said the community wanted to show belief that the boys are still alive.

"I've never seen the inlet packed like this," she said.

Another friend, Mathew Lavallee, said one of the boys posted "Peace out, Jupe," on Snapchat before they left.

"I don't know what that meant to them," Lavallee said, "but I think they just went out fishing and saw the storm and decided not to come in, thought they were invincible and could conquer it."

The outpouring of support came as the search for the boys expanded up the coast. It now stretches about 400 miles, from Jupiter to Charleston, South Carolina.

Before calling off the search, the U.S. Coast Guard scoured an area off Tybee Island, Georgia, again Wednesday morning after reports of an object in the water. Crew members looked last night but wanted to try again in the daylight. Based on the computer models the Coast Guard is using, it's not an area where the teens would likely be found.

So far, crews have conducted 53 search patterns that cover 40,000 square nautical miles, the Coast Guard said.

"It's a huge area," Capt. Mark Fedor of the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard estimates that someone could survive in the warm Atlantic waters for up to five days this time of year.

A private search effort is being paid for by a GoFundMe campaign. The Perry and Austin Rescue Fund has raised more than $144,000 to pay to fly private aircraft and buy boat fuel.

The mothers

The Coast Guard had five cutters, a Navy ship and multiple planes involved in the search.

The situation has grown increasingly dire since the boys' capsized boat was found Sunday, but their families are not giving up hope.

"We are 100 percent committed to finding and rescuing those boys ... and we will not stop until we get them back home with us," Perry's mother, Pamela Cohen, told CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" late Tuesday.  "We just feel very, very confident that they will be able to stick through this. They know that we're coming for them and we will get them."

Austin's mother, Carly Black, is counting on the teens' boating expertise.

"These boys have been out there doing this forever. It's not new to them," she said. "They prepare for these situations."

While the boys are young, they were legally operating the boat. Florida regulations say a person must be at least 14 to operate a watercraft.

Survival tale

Football great Joe Namath, a neighbor of the boys' families, is among the friends supporting them. He also said he's optimistic.

A flier is created for two boys lost at sea off the Florida coast.
A flier is created for two boys lost at sea off the Florida coast.

"The history of the high seas have survival rates over the years," Namath said. "There have been miracles out there, and we're planning on finding the children."

Keith Judy is one such survivor. He and a friend spent 20 hours in the ocean with his son and the son's friend on July 13 after their fishing boat capsized off Charleston, South Carolina, Judy said Tuesday on CNN's "New Day."

He said the group tied itself together with a rope and hung onto a floating cooler through the night.

"Before the Coast Guard found us, the sharks started bumping us and swimming through our legs and actually hitting our skin and cutting our skin," Judy said. "We fought off small sharks for a little while."

Judy said he got the attention of a Coast Guard boat by standing on the cooler and waving a life jacket.

The search area

Austin and Perry were last seen Friday near Jupiter buying $110 in gasoline for their boat, Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Steve Lehmann said at a news conference.

About the same time the boys were heading out to sea, the National Weather Service was posting special marine warnings telling boaters to seek shelter.

"It doesn't take much when you are offshore," said CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray. "Storms will pop up and the seas will build very quickly."

The teens' boat was found Sunday, capsized 67 nautical miles (about 77 miles) off Florida's Ponce de Leon Inlet, well north of Jupiter.

The search pattern has spread northward with the passage of time and the flow of the Gulf Stream.


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