Search for missing boaters called off

Update: Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officials ended their search for two Central American boaters Thursday night after the men apparently jumped off their canoe in the waters south of the Cayman Islands Wednesday.  

The two apparently got lost in the dark overnight and were never located again Thursday with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Marine Unit, the RCIPS helicopter and U.S. Coast Guard crews scouring the waters southwest of Grand Cayman for the missing boaters.

“The vessel was said to have been at sea for several days and with the large amount of marine life seen around the vessel, it is unlikely we would still find them,” RCIPS Inspector Ian Yearwood said Friday. 

According to initial reports from police, at 10:40 p.m. Wednesday, the RCIPS was notified a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft spotted distress flares from a vessel southeast of Grand Cayman. The RCIPS Marine Unit and the police helicopter responded to assist in the rescue effort.

The 36-foot canoe was found with two men from either Costa Rica or Nicaragua on board. They were taken off the watercraft and placed aboard the police patrol boat Niven D. The police marine unit ferried the men back to Grand Cayman, where they were being treated at the Cayman Islands hospital for dehydration Thursday.

The men had apparently been at sea for 15 days during which time their boat’s engine failed and they were left adrift in the Caribbean basin. 

Two other men who were aboard the canoe dove into the water Wednesday night to retrieve a rescue package dropped from the Coast Guard craft. By Thursday afternoon, they had not been found.

RCIPS Air Operations Commander Steve Fitzgerald said Thursday that the search shifted from southeast to southwest of Grand Cayman after police located the package thrown from the Coast Guard chopper – which contained a marine radio – about 40 miles southwest of the main island.

“It’s given us an idea of drift,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “But in the [Wednesday night] darkness, they’ve been lost.”

Although the coast guard rescue package was found, Mr. Fitzgerald admitted finding the two men now adrift at sea would be challenging. One man was apparently wearing a black-colored life jacket, virtually impossible to spot during an air search; the other man had no life jacket and no shirt on.

The four men were believed to have been on a fishing trip when the engine aboard their craft failed.


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