Virginia Couple Sailing to Portugal Are Missing After Telling Daughter Their Sailboat Was Damaged
A Virginia Beach couple who set sail for Portugal earlier this month is now missing after not returning home on Monday.
The U.S. Coast Guard said in a press release on Tuesday that Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones, both 65, left Hampton, Virginia on June 8, heading for Azores, Portugal. They were supposed to return on Monday, but did not, sparking the Coast Guard's search for them.
The last person to hear from the pair was Jones' daughter, who received a message from Nikopoulos and Jones on June 13, telling her they had run into bad weather that damaged their sailboat and planned to turn around and go back to Hampton. They had traveled roughly 460 miles from the city when they spoke with Jones's daughter. She has not heard from them since, the Coast Guard said.
Jones's daughter later alerted the Coast Guard Fifth District command center on June 17, stating "that she hadn't received any communication from her mother since they departed and was concerned for their well-being." Jones' daughter said they were expected to return on Monday, per the Coast Guard.
According to the release, since they went missing two HC-130 Hercules flights via the Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City have searched for Jones and Nikopoulos. Nearby boaters also received an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast from the Fifth Coast Guard District Command Center.
"In situations like this, where there are so many unknowns, our coordination efforts need to cast a wide and intentional net," said Chief Brian Gainey, command duty officer in the Coast Guard's release.
"We're tracking cell phone and radio pings as we work with our counterparts in Bermuda to accurately determine the most intelligent search area for our aircrews. It's a lot of detective work, but it's all in service to finding these two individuals and bringing them home to their families."
Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Pulliam, the Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator in the Fifth District Command Center said in a separate release that they "have not received any signs of distress, however, we encourage the public to keep a sharp eye out for Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones," adding, "We encourage anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of the two boaters to contact the Fifth Coast Guard District at 757-398-6390."
The U.S. Coast Guard tells PEOPLE there are no updates as of Wednesday, and it is still searching for the couple's whereabouts.
Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Connie Terrell also told The Washington Post that it is not believed the couple is "in distress", but the Coast Guard is still looking for their exact location. Officers have also reached out to nearby districts in search of the couple. She said that the damage the couple told Jones' daughter about was due to a broken sail.
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"We're not sure whether they were able to make repairs out at sea and continue on to the Azores or if they turned around and went farther north," said Terrell to the outlet.
She told NBC News there was a thorough search in the area where Jones and Nikopoulos reported the rough weather, but the Coast Guard did not find them.
Weeks ahead of their trip, Jones shared a Facebook video of her and Nikopoulos on a boat in the middle of a harsh storm.
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She said that they were at the dock and added, "Thank goodness we have this wonderful enclosure here because we'd be toast."
Showing the heavy rains and winds, she pans the camera to Nikopoulos and appears to say, "Hi Yanni," to which he responds, "Hi."