By MATT SEDENSKY
MIAMI (AP) — The Coast Guard will suspend its search at sunset for two teenage fishermen who've been missing for a week, officials said Friday.
However, Capt. Mark Fedor said the search would continue in the meantime and has been a 'true all hands on deck effort'.
The 14-year-old boys, Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, went missing last Friday and their capsized boat was found Sunday. The Coast Guard has searched waters from South Florida up through South Carolina without success.
The boys' families say they plan to continue a private search even after the Coast Guard's efforts end.
The announcement brings to an end a massive sea-and-land search by the Coast Guard, which sent crews out night and day, scouring the Atlantic in hopes of finding the boys. They chased repeated reports of objects sighted in the water, and at times had the help of the Navy and other local agencies. But since the boat was found overturned, no useful clues turned up.
The families had been holding out hope that items believed to have been on the boat, including a large cooler, might be spotted, or that the teens might even have clung to such an object in their struggle to stay alive. Even as hope dimmed, experts on survival said finding the teens alive was still possible. The Coast Guard continued its search, saying it would do so until officials no longer thought the boys could be rescued.
The saga began July 24, when the boys took Austin's 19-foot boat on what their families said was expected to be a fishing trip within the nearby Loxahatchee River and Intracoastal Waterway, where they were allowed to cruise without supervision. The boys fueled up at a local marina around 1:30 p.m. and set off and later calls to Austin's cellphone went unanswered. A line of summer storms moved through and when the boys still couldn't be reached, police were called.
The Coast Guard launched the search that would stretch on into an eighth day.
The boys grew up on the water in Tequesta, Florida, constantly boated and fished, worked at a tackle shop together and immersed themselves in a life on the ocean. Their families said they learned to swim before they took first steps. They clung to faith in their boys' knowledge of the sea, even saying they thought they could have fashioned a raft and spear to keep them afloat and fed while adrift.
Many unknowns about the boys' status persisted throughout the ordeal, including whether they were wearing life jackets (one was found near the boat, but it wasn't clear how many were aboard) and whether they had food or water. The Coast Guard said it tried to err toward optimism in its own assessment of how long to press on, assuming a best-case outcome.
Along the way, some suggested the teens shouldn't have been allowed to boat on their own. Many others, though, voiced support, saying voyages with set boundaries are normal among boating families, and that the parents had no control over what ultimately happened.
Locals turned out night after night for vigils, poured money into a collection to fund private search efforts, used their own boats and planes and walked the coastline in pursuit of any little clue that might make a break. The efforts got an early boost from a high-profile neighbor of the families, NFL Hall of Famer Joe Namath, who helped garner publicity for the story.
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