NEW SMYRNA BEACH – Two weeks after two teenagers vanished while boating off the coast of South Florida, the Coast Guard has confirmed the one major clue in the boys’ disappearance is now lost at sea. The boat that Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, both 14, had been fishing from is missing, officials said Tuesday.
The capsized vessel had been recovered on July 26 off the coast of New Smyrna Beach, more than two hours north of where the boys were last seen two days prior. The boat was inspected by a Coast Guard rescue swimmer and marked with a beacon, but was not immediately secured.
A salvage crew went out to secure the boat the same day it was discovered, but by the time they arrived on scene 12 hours later, the vessel was gone.
Coast Guard Lt. Commander Gabe Somma told NBC News that the priority at the time was finding the missing boys.
“Once we found the boat and discovered that the boys weren’t on board, we immediately shifted gears,” he said. “When we’re dealing with lives, and somebody’s life is in jeopardy, we’re dedicating our resources to go out there and find them.”
The Coast Guard suspended the search for the two teens at sunset Friday. The boys vanished off the coast of Jupiter, north of West Palm Beach, after heading out on a fishing expedition.
But the Coast Guard does not have plans to try and retrieve the boat, Somma said. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission would be responsible for any recovery efforts.