A group of friends has now been missing at sea for nearly two weeks, and despite the U.S. Coast Guard calling off its search for them, the fishermen's families are still holding out hope the group will be found.
Dalton Conway, Caleb Wilkinson and Tyler Barlow left the port city of Brunswick, Georgia, on a 31-foot fishing vessel named Carol Ann Oct. 14. They planned to travel 80 miles into the open sea to a popular fishing spot before heading back Oct. 18, but they have yet to turn up.
For seven days, the U.S. Coast Guard used the sky and the water to search more than 94,000 square miles from northern Florida to Virginia for the crew. But on Thursday, the military branch officially suspended its search.
"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," said Capt. Frank DelRosso, commander of the Coast Guard sector based in Charleston, South Carolina.
Crews searched more than 94,000 square miles over the span of 7 days.
— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) October 26, 2023
Chris Barlow, the father of missing boater Tyler Barlow, told Scripps News an initial possible sighting of the boat turned out to be a different vessel. He also said the Coast Guard's assumption that the boat would self-deploy an emergency signal if submerged was false; the signal would instead need to be manually deployed.
The father said he believes the men and their boat are still out there, just in a different place due to ocean currents.
"We believe they are much farther north at this point and possibly in the life raft," he said, adding that the Coast Guard sent a plane to search farther north to no avail.
The families have been raising money online in hopes of funding additional search operations, with nearly $23,000 of its $30,000 goal raised as of Friday.
The local Camden County Sheriff's Office said it would continue searching the water without federal help, per Axios, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said it would use two boats in its own search through Saturday. The sheriff's office said it has reached out to the U.S. Navy for assistance in its operation.
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