A body has been found in the search for a missing Sarasota, Florida, father and his three teen children, who were last seen Sunday on a 29-foot sailboat off of Florida’s Gulf Coast.
“It’s with a heavy heart that I announce that at about 4:30 this afternoon one of our coast guard helicopters located a deceased person in the search area,” Captain Greg Case of the U.S. Coast Guard announced in a press conference late Wednesday.
Case declined to state if the deceased was male or female, but said that the body had been transported to local authorities for identification and that the family had been notified. Crews will continue to search throughout the night for the remaining three missing persons.
“This is still an ongoing search and rescue and we still have three persons out there we are trying to locate and we still have hope for that,” Case continued.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Coast Guard announced that debris – including a tarp, six life jackets, water bottles and a propane tank – was found 33 miles into the Gulf of Mexico from Sanibel Island.
“This is a dire finding,” a U.S. Coast Guard official said. “We are still in the beginning stages of the search.”
The Coast Guard rescue teams, who are “concentrating efforts on finding the family,” have also located the two kayaks that the boat was towing.
The Coast Guard began searching for the missing family on Tuesday, after watchstanders received a report the same day stating that the man and his three kids left from Sarasota at 7 a.m. on Sunday headed to Fort Myers to repair a sailboat.
At 3 p.m. on Sunday, Ace called his brother and said his vessel was “in 6-foot seas and he was attempting to survive with his children,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.
He requested weather information.
An active search to locate the missing teens and their father is being conducted by the Coast Guard and partner agencies.
According to the Coast Guard, an HC-130 Hercules fixed-wing rescue aircrew and an MH-60 Jawhawk aircrew are scouring Florida’s west coast from the sky and multiple response boat crews are conducting searches.
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Numerous state and local emergency responders are also looking for the family.
At this time, mariners are asked to keep a lookout and contact Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg at 727-824-7506 with any further information on the missing family.
The search efforts comes almost one year after two Florida teens went missing at sea on July 24. Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, both, 14, set out from Florida’s Jupiter Inlet on a boating excursion and never returned.
A statement on the official Facebook page for the Perry J. Cohen Foundation reads: “The Perry J. Cohen Foundation is praying for the safe return of the Kimberly family from Sarasota FL. Our hearts and prayers go out to the family, their loved ones and the dedicated men and woman of the United States Coast Guard and Law Enforcement who are conducting the SAR efforts.”