The search for Ace Kimberly and his missing family has taken a grim turn as crews recovered two bodies after their ship encountered heavy seas off the coast of Florida.
Kimberly had been on the boat with his three children — 17-year-old Rebecca, 15-year-old Donny, and 13-year-old Roger — when they ran into a storm late on Tuesday that kicked up six-foot waves. The family was sailing to Ft. Meyers Beach for a needed boat repair but disappeared without an emergency signal, WFLA reported.
The discovery of two bodies has dampened hope that any of the family members might be found alive, but search crews appeared to be preparing for this outcome. In the hours before the bodies were found, crews located a stretch of debris that appeared to be from the boat.
“Finding the kayak and life jackets signals that we are in a dire situation,” said Captain Greg Case, Commander of Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. “We are continuing to keep in very close contact with the family and keep them updated on all developments during this difficult time. Locating the debris inside of our search field indicates that we are in the right area, and we are aggressively searching for Ace, Becky, Donny and Roger.”
There is also new information that the boat Ace Kimberly had taken his children on was not seaworthy and was unable to summon help in an emergency. A friend of the family said that the boat, named Golden Goddess, did not have an emergency radio that could have alerted the Coast Guard when the family became stuck in rough seas.
It was also in need of repair, with friends saying it could handle normal travel but was not equipped for more difficult conditions.
As WFLA reported, Ace Kimberly also tried to get an emergency radio for the trip but ended up leaving without it.
“Travis Evans, another friend of the Kimberly family, said Ace asked him for a radio, but left on Sunday before retrieving it. Evans adds he didn’t know if Ace had a radio during their trip. Evans said the boat was ‘water worthy, but not seaworthy’ alluding to the fact the boat could’ve handled the voyage, but was in no shape to handle rough seas.”
Coast Guard search crews have located debris from the boat, including two kayaks and a bucket that contained some personal items, including birth certificates and a wallet. More debris was found that included water jugs, tarps, life jackets, and throwable life rings.
There was a sliver of hope in the search for Ace Kimberly and his family. Captain Gregory Case, who is leading the search efforts, said there might have been a flare sent up at close to 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday just hours after the crash.
Crews zeroed in on the crash area on Wednesday afternoon, where they found the first kayak and a trail of debris. Four hours later, a helicopter crew spotted a body that was identified as Ace Kimberly. A second body was found on Thursday and identified as Rebecca Kimberly.
But despite the grim findings, search crews said they were still operating under the hope that at least one of the missing family members might still be found alive.
“We continue to hold out hope,” Case said. “There are so many factors in… we still hold out hope.”
Authorities have asked that anyone with information on the disappearance of Ace Kimberly and his family should contact the Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg at (727) 824-7506.
[Image via United States Coast Guard/Twitter]