ENGLEWOOD, Fla. (WSVN) – The Coast Guard announced that an unidentified body had been found in the search for a father and his three children who went missing on their boat off the Gulf Coast, Tuesday.
The body was found around 4:30 p.m., Wednesday. “At about 4:30 this afternoon, one our Coast Guard helicopters located a deceased person in the search area wearing a PFD,” said Coast Guard Captain Gregory Case.
A debris field was also found off Sanibel Island, earlier that day. “This debris field contained a tarp, some water jugs, six life jackets, a pair of shoes, a basketball and a propane tank,” Case said.
The Coast Guard also tweeted out that two kayaks, believed to have been towed by the sail boat, were found. Their search continues for the family.
The father and his two sons, ages 13 and 15, and daughter, 17, were traveling from Sarasota to Fort Myers on their 29-foot boat, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The family, identified as 45-year-old Ace Kimberly and his children Donny, Roger and Becky, lived on the sail boat.
The Coast Guard said it’s difficult to know whether they could still be alive.
A family member called the Coast Guard, Tuesday, to report that the father and his children were heading to Fort Myers to get their sailboat fixed, at around 7 a.m., Sunday morning, but they never returned.
“It’s sad, definitely it’s sad,” said deckhand Derek Sledjaski who works at the Sarasota Marina near where the Kimberly family kept their boat.
The Kimberly’s are known to be quiet and to themselves.
Coast Guard officials said the father aboard the boat called his brother at 3 p.m. on Sunday and said the sailboat was in 6-foot seas. The father also said he was trying to survive with his children offshore of Englewood. The Coast Guard confirmed that there were thunderstorms in the area where the family was sailing.
“He had become concerned. We later found out he had talked to his brother Sunday afternoon and that his brother said he was experiencing rough seas and thunder storms, and he was worried and wanted his brother on land to send him some weather reports,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Gregory Case, “and that’s the last that he heard of him.”
Officials have sent out alerts to local marinas and have launched crews by air and sea in the search of the family.
“We kind of have tracked their voyage and where they should be,” said Case. “We back drifted that from the time we thought they ran into trouble Sunday, and that’s how we developed a search pattern. We were able to find a debris field right in the middle of the search pattern is a good indication that the information that we got was pretty accurate.”
The Coast Guard is using a cargo plane to the search more than 100 miles between Englewood and Fort Myers. It could be seen taking off, Wednesday, in a video officials posted on Twitter.
“We still have three persons out there that we are trying desperately to locate, and we still have hope for that,” Case said.
Another family is holding out hope for the Kimberly family after a similar situation happened to their loved ones. Fourteen-year olds Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos left Jupiter Inlet last July and never returned. Their boat was found months later.
The foundation, named after one of the boys, released the following statement Wednesday: “The Perry J. Cohen Foundation is praying for the safe return of the Kimberly family from Sarasota Fl. Our hearts and prayers go out to the family…”
Coast Guard members hope that their search stays on target and that this family will be found safe. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family,” said Case. “I know this is a super difficult time for them, and we are doing everything we can and throwing everything we have at this search at this time.”
Officials said they are also using a cutter and two boats in their search. They also said they did not receive a distress call from the family.
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