“Boys lost at sea” is something a water-savvy family never wants to hear, but for two Florida families, the nightmare has become a reality. After last being seen on July 24 fueling up their 19-foot single engine boat for a fishing trip, 14-year old friends Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos vanished on the open water, and as of Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard has made the decision to suspend the massive search for the teens.
After a tip indicated that the boys may have been headed to the Bahamas, authorities notified officials there, but no trace was found of the teens there. Their capsized boat was discovered on Sunday near Ponce Inlet, 180 miles north of where the boys departed from.
“We made a decision to extend our search efforts because there was some uncertainty as to when the boys may have went into the water,” U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Mark Fedor said, adding that the process — as father to two teens himself — was “excruciating and gut-wrenching.”
“We also took into account their age and their combined will to live. We never want to discount that… We believe we reached the limit for our effective search and rescue efforts. My focus entirely was on trying to find these two boys. We are budgeted to do search and rescue. I never asked anybody about how much this would cost. I used all the resources that we had available to use. Our federal and state partners, they were going at this with everything they had as well.”
The boys’ families say that they were experienced in open water, but officials say a “significant squall” may have been more than they could handle. The families will continue a private search without the aid of authorities, and have alerted all boaters to be on the lookout for the boys, as they are holding out hope that the teens were able to cling to items that were missing from the boat when it was found, including a cooler and their own life jackets.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, it is extremely difficult to remain lost at sea before succumbing to dehydration or exhaustion, even if the weather has the water in placid conditions.
[Photo courtesy NBC News]