Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen may have been the victims of foul play, the mother of one of the teenagers lost at sea now believes as new developments arise in the case of the missing pair.
The 14-year-olds vanished during a fishing trip last year. After the discovery of their boat and an iPhone, there is growing concern about the circumstances of their disappearance. A lawsuit filed in connection to the case is now raising the idea that the boys may have been the victims of foul play.
The families of Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen are hoping for a break in the case with the discovery of their boat near Bermuda this week. The boat also contained an iPhone belonging to Stephanos, which the parents of the boys hope will bring forth new clues about their disappearance.
There could be another break in the search for Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, as well. A pilot who took part in the search for the pair said he saw one of the two teens floating on debris two days after their boat first capsized, NBC Miami reported.
Bobby Smith reportedly told the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that he saw two white pieces of debris tied together with an orange life jacket.
Smith told the Sun Sentinel that it was actually his 10-year-old granddaughter who first spotted the person.
“It was obvious it was a person lying on their back,” Smith told the paper. “When we circled, both arms came up. It was a shock.”
Smith said he dipped down to 200 feet and could make out a person waving his hands, but when the pilot increased his altitude to 1,500 feet in order to radio air controllers, he could not locate the person. Rescuers were unable to find him.
The discovery of the cell phone was what led to the lawsuit and allegations of possible foul play. Stephanos’ father, William Blu Stephanos, said that he was working with the phone’s manufacturer and an IT professional to retrieve its data, NBC New York reported.
Cohen’s mother also filed a lawsuit trying to force the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to have investigators search the phone, saying that she “will continue to suffer irreparable harm if the iPhone is not properly handled as material evidence in a possible maritime crime or homicide.”
Cohen’s lawsuit also painted the case as a matter of public interest.
“The public has a right to know what happened to the boys, and what led up to the point of their disappearance,” the lawsuit states.
Cohen is asking that the Stephanos family submit the phone to an independent forensics examination, saying she would withdraw her lawsuit if they did.
“We will be withdrawing our lawsuit as soon as FWC receives the written consents it needs from both families to put the iPhone in the hands of the best impartial iPhone extraction experts available, in a proper legal chain of custody,” Pamela Cohen said in the statement.
There is already a criminal investigation regarding the disappearance of Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen. The FBI has been investigating the case since September, when the father of Stephanos reportedly said he believed the pair may have been abducted.
Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have said they do not suspect foul play in the disappearance of Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen.
[Image via U.S. Coast Guard]