Families of three fishermen still missing at sea since their boat departed the Georgia coast nearly two weeks ago say they are not giving up hope, even as the U.S. Coast Guard ended its search after scouring ocean waters from northern Florida to Virginia.
The Coast Guard announced it was suspending search efforts Thursday night after boats and planes wrapped up a seventh day of looking with no sign of the commercial fishing vessel. It said crews had searched a total of 94,000 square miles.
“Despite the unwavering dedication of our crews, regrettably, we have not been able to uncover any traces of the vessel and have made the difficult decision to suspend the search for three beloved family members,” Capt. Frank DelRosso, commander of the Coast Guard sector based in Charleston, South Carolina, said in a statement.
The 31-foot fishing boat Carol Ann departed the port city of Brunswick on Oct. 14 with its captain, Dalton Conway, and two crew members, Caleb Wilkinson and Tyler Barlow.
Barlow’s father, Chris Barlow, said he suspects the boat became disabled and drifted into the Gulf Stream, which swept it far to the north.
“Tyler will not stop fighting, I don’t think Caleb or Dalton will either,” Chris Barlow told WTLV-TV. “Their chances of survivability are extremely great. We just have to find them.”
The fishermen’s families have been raising money online in hopes of funding private search efforts.
The Coast Guard began searching Oct. 20 after the boat’s owner reported the fishermen, who had planned to fish in waters 80 miles off Georgia’s coast, failed returned on schedule. No one had heard from them since they left the dock.
The search picked up no distress beacon from the boat. A Coast Guard spokesperson previously said the Carol Ann was equipped with an emergency transmitter designed to automatically send a signal if submerged in water. But Chris Barlow said it was later determined the boat’s distress beacon required manual activation.
Tips of possible sightings of the Carol Ann by other boats failed to yield any breakthroughs.