Few clues emerge on fate of teens missing on fishing trip

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Rescuers endured a fourth night of an anxious search for two young Floridians born and bred as boaters who went missing on the high seas.

The Coast Guard scoured an area the size of West Virginia with no sign of the boaters by early Tuesday. Petty Officer Anthony Soto said Tuesday that the search area remains 50 miles off the coast of Jacksonville and expands as far north as Savannah, Georgia, and as far south as Cape Canaveral.

U.S. Coast Guard via ABC News
U.S. Coast Guard via ABC News

The 14-year-old boys’ vessel was found capsized on Sunday morning. But relatives and friends of the teens were clinging to hope that the expertise they acquired boating and fishing in their short lives was enough to keep them alive while apparently lost in the Atlantic.

“This isn’t something that he’s new at,” said Carly Black, the mother of Austin Stephanos, in an interview with television station WPBF. “I think they feel better on the boat than they do on land.”

 Related: Missing teens’ boat found capsized off Florida coast

The mother said she wouldn’t even “bat an eye” about the boys’ ability to survive at sea.

Nick Korniloff, stepfather of the other teen, Perry Cohen, said the boys had been “raised on the water,” knew how to navigate safely, and were more passionate about the sea than anything else.

“If you put two pretty girls in front of them and two fishing rods, they’d grab the fishing rods first,” the stepfather said.

The ordeal began as a teenage summer adventure: The boys were last seen Friday afternoon buying $110 worth of fuel near Jupiter and were believed to have been heading toward the Bahamas. Thunderstorms and heavy rains were forecast in the Jupiter area later Friday afternoon. However, Coast Guard Capt. Mark Fedor called it “typical South Florida weather” that didn’t provide an immediate answer to what happened to the teens.

The Coast Guard was alerted at 5 p.m. that the boys were overdue, and the search began. The 19-foot boat was found Sunday, capsized, off Ponce Inlet, more than 180 miles north of where the boys started their journey. The search has continued, day and night, with areas of concentration moving based on the Gulf Stream and ocean conditions. Coast Guard officials have most recently been focusing on waters off northeast Florida and said they had no intention of quitting yet.

“Our intentions are to continue to search aggressively,” Fedor said Monday evening, adding that the decision is being reevaluated daily. Earlier Monday, Coast Guard Petty Officer Steve Lehmann said the search was going on under “the highest level of optimism.” He declined to say how long it would continue. Searchers were using helicopter, boat and airplane, and local authorities and the USS Carney also joined the efforts to locate the boys.

“We need every clue and we need everyone’s help,” Korniloff said.

The teens’ families pledged a $100,000 reward in the search and a famous neighbor — NFL Hall of Famer Joe Namath — promised to continue searching local beaches in hopes of finding clues.

Related: Joe Namath offers reward in search for missing Florida teens

“It’s a lot of water out there,” Namath said. “We just keep on looking till we get an answer.”

Joe Namath
Former NFL great and Tequesta, Fla. resident Joe Namath, front left, walks the beach at Coral Cove Park in Jupiter, Fla., searching for possible clues washed up, Monday, July 27, 2015 with the family of one of two teenage fishermen who went missing three days earlier after setting out for the Bahamas.  (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP) MAGS OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Though the boys’ boat was overturned it did not appear damaged. No foul play was suspected. One life jacket was found near the boat, though it was unclear how many life jackets had been on board.

Water temperatures were warm and not cited as a factor in the boys’ survival.

Florida requires minors to have boating safety instruction in order to operate a boat of 10 horsepower or greater, but no licenses are issued. It was not immediately clear whether the boys had undergone a safety class. Korniloff said he was focused on finding the boys and wouldn’t comment on questions about whether 14-year-olds should be allowed to venture so far alone.

Still, Lehmann said boaters of any age and experience level could encounter danger.

“Regardless of how experienced you are in the water, things can happen,” he said. “Things befall even the most surefooted of mariners.”


Follow Matt Sedensky on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sedensky .

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s