The search for Ace Kimberly and his three children has been called off after the Coast Guard found two bodies from the family lost at sea during a storm off the coast of Florida.
The family went missing last week while sailing from Sarasota to Fort Myers, prompting a massive search that included Coast Guard ships and air support. Ace Kimberly had been sailing along with his three children — 17-year-old Becky, 15-year-old Donny, and 13-year-old Roger — when their sailboat hit rough water.
Authorities had found the bodies of Ace Kimberly and Becky this week, and decided to call off the search for the boys after several days with no sign of them.
Captain Gregory Case, who was leading the search effort, noted that the five-day search mission covered close to 34,000 square miles. A very emotional Case announced on Saturday that the search would no longer continue.
“It is with a heavy heart and sincere condolences to the family and friends that I do this,” Case said (via CNN). “This is probably the most difficult decision I ever have to make in this position.”
Details of what happened to the boat are not entirely known. On Sunday, Ace Kimberly reportedly reached out to his brother to say that they had encountered rough seas that included six-foot waves, but the family was not heard from again.
— Janet Shamlian (@JanetShamlian) June 23, 2016
A friend of the family said that the boat — which the family had been living on — was not seaworthy. Kimberly was reportedly sailing to Fort Myers for a much-needed repair.
— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) June 22, 2016
And the family may have been unprepared for rough weather. WFLA reported that Ace Kimberly had tried to get an emergency radio 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.”
On Wednesday, search crews found a trail of debris in the water that included a bucket containing personal items and a kayak that had been towed behind the boat. Within this field of debris were eight emergency flotation devices, with Becky reportedly wearing another one when her body was found.
Case said the search team tried to press Ace Kimberly’s brother for details that could help the search for the missing family, but that ultimately they were hampered by Kimberly’s apparent lack of communication regarding the travel plans.
“He did the best he could,” Case said of Ace Kimberly’s brother.”He didn’t have their exact travel plans… He did a good job in helping us.”
Case hinted on Saturday that it may never be known what happened to the Kimberly family.
“We don’t have any idea,” Case said. “We know there was bad weather… It’s just difficult when you don’t find everything and you don’t have anyone left to tell the story.”
But Case also noted that the extended Kimberly family has been strong during the search.
“They’re a strong family,” Case said. “They all came together. They took it hard but… they were strong. A lot of them reacted more strongly than I think I would.”
The family’s disappearance became national news this week, with a number of large media outlets following along with each grim update.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced plans to conduct its own investigation into how Ace Kimberly and his family ended up lost at sea.
[Image via United States Coast Guard/Twitter]