ISLAMORADA (AP/WSVN) — The U.S. Coast Guard is searching the Atlantic off of the Florida Keys for a missing Canadian scuba diver.
The agency said in a news release that the crew of The Pisces reported 37-year-old Rob Stewart missing about 5:15 p.m. Tuesday in the vicinity of Alligator Reef, off Islamorada.
Stewart is from Toronto, Canada. His mother and father flew into Miami from Canada, Wednesday.
Their son was shooting a follow-up film to his 2007 documentary, “Sharkwater,” which aimed to educate the public about shark conservation. The website for the movie posted an update about Stewart’s disappearance, saying he was diving near a wreck with three other divers when he went missing.
Stewart “resurfaced at the end of the dive, and as the boat was turning around to pick him up, he went back under – and was not seen again,” the post said.
His parents said he has performed thousands of dives around the world, and they’re not sure what went wrong. But they are optimistic that he is still alive.
“He’s an extremely experienced diver and this is not, this is just — I don’t know — an act of God,” Brian Stewart, the diver’s father, said. “I don’t know what it is.”
Stewart’s family also said he surfaced with the dive master, then went back down to help with the boat’s anchor.
“When the dive master went in the boat, ahead of Rob, which is a surprise, he fainted,” Brian said. “And Rob came up and signaled that he was OK, and they turned around and tried to help the dive master, turned, and Rob was gone.”
Stewart’s sister, Alexandra Stewart, told CBC Toronto Wednesday morning, “We’re in the critical window of daylight right after he’s gone missing where, if we’re going to find him on the surface – where we’d like to find him – it’s going to be today.”
Stewart’s family estimates he was at a depth of 230 feet when he was diving.
Officials say the Navy, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office are assisting in the search.
As of 5 p.m., the search was still active. Twelve planes are involved in the search, but officials said they can always use more boats in the water. Several boaters from the community are already assisting in the search.
A GoFundMe page has been created to help cover search and rescue costs. The page has raised more than $40,000 since being created.
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