For the first time since their disappearance last year, there are some clues about what happened to two teenage boys lost at sea off the Florida coast. A Norwegian vessel stumbled upon their boat floating in the shipping lane. The parents are hoping the discovery reopens the investigation, and they can finally find closure.
According to CNN, the U.S. Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed the single-engine boat that was found by the Norwegian crew did belong to Austin Stephanos, one of the two teenagers lost at sea on July 24 last year. There is still no clear indication what happened to Stephanos or his friend Perry Cohen (both 14), but an iPhone was also found on board.
The supply ship heading towards Norway salvaged the 19-foot boat and identified the owners from its serial number. They are now shipping the boat back to the teenagers’ family in a shipping container. USA Today reports that Blu Stephanos was touched by the captain’s efforts and his supportive words after they got into contact.
Blu explained that Captain Melvaer was a father himself, and he wrote that recovering the boat affected him and his entire crew deeply.
The captain wrote, “I think they will follow us in our hearts and minds for the rest of our lives.”
The father said he wrote back to Malvaer to express his appreciation.
“I can say without hesitation that our deep appreciation for the compassionate efforts of Capt. Melvaer and the crew of the Edda Fjord will be something that remains in our hearts as well.”
Rob Klepper, a spokesman for the law enforcement division of the fish and wildlife conservation commission, released a statement after the find, explaining that they’d try to find new information about the teenagers lost at sea.
“The personal effects that were onboard the boat will be returned to the families of the victims, and subsequent information retrieval efforts from any of those items will be at their discretion. The (fish and wildlife commission) will examine the vessel for any new information, and return the boat to the family.”
Items found on the boat included plastic boxes of fishing tackle, but the most important find is likely the iPhone, which might finally give hints about the teenagers’ plan and ultimate fate.
The boys might have told friends on social media that they were going to the Bahamas (near where their boat was discovered), but the purpose of their trip still isn’t clear. They left the town of Jupiter on July 24, when suddenly a massive squall hit the area, one capable of capsizing or disabling their boat. They were declared missing, and the coast guard initiated a massive manhunt to find them if they were lost at sea.
They searched 62,400 square miles of water (roughly the size of Missouri) for a week. The coast guard found nothing, and the teenagers have been considered lost ever since.
The phone might change all that, according to a Facebook post from one of the families.
“This is an open Missing Persons case, and we hope that FWC reopens their investigation and utilizes the expert resources of other government agencies as well as the private sector if necessary to extrapolate the data from the recovered IPhone (found on the boat).”
After the teenagers were lost at sea, Pamela Cohen, Perry’s mother, started the Perry Cohen Foundation, which supports boat safety and education.
[Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images]