Three men and two children missing at sea since Sunday afternoon had still not been found Tuesday despite a continuing search effort involving a U.S. Coast Guard plane, marine police and volunteer boaters.
Despite strong winds and high seas, the search party, limited to boats of around 50 feet or larger as conditions worsened, continued to search the area around where the capsized fishing craft was spotted Monday.
Gary Mullings, his friend Edsell Haylock and his nephews Nicholas Watler, Kamron Brown, 11, and Kanyi Brown, 9, were reported missing late Sunday after they did not return from a fishing trip to 12 Mile Bank in a twin-engined 28-foot Panga-style boat.
They were last seen by another boat sometime between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday heading back toward George Town with only one engine operating. Their capsized craft was spotted 20 miles southwest of Grand Cayman by the police helicopter Monday morning.
Police recovered the upturned vessel Tuesday afternoon and were towing it into port. No sightings of any survivors were reported.
As the search continued Tuesday, the wives of Mr. Mullings and Mr. Haylock thanked the community for their help, prayers and support.
In a joint statement released to the Cayman Compass, Victoria Allen Mullings and Gemma Haylock said, “We would just like to express our thanks and gratitude to everyone [who] has helped in the search for our boys.
“Everyone has gone above and beyond, especially the crew of friends who speedily put together the first search to go out on the same night to try and help them.
“The families affected by this terrible time will need their privacy and we thank everyone from all over the world for their positive thoughts and prayers.”
Fishermen Charles Ebanks, who joined the search on Monday in the 46-foot Viking fishing boat Trading Time, said he was desperate to find his friends.
“I was out all day Monday. I didn’t find anything, but I gave it a world of a try,” he said. “I am so saddened by the whole thing. My sympathies go to the families. These are all somebody’s children, people’s husbands, people’s friends. We have a lot of love and respect for them.”
Mr. Ebanks said he was close friends with Mr. Mullings and Mr. Haylock.
He learned of their plight from fellow fisherman Emil Terry, who was the first to begin searching for the missing men and children overnight Sunday. Mr. Terry later joined Mr. Ebanks on the search throughout Monday.
Caribbean Marine Services, which operates a fleet of cruise ship tender boats, also loaned its boats to the effort Monday. Other vessels, including a sailing boat, the Maria, aided the search Tuesday, while Cayman Helicopters also offered assistance.
The upturned boat was first sighted by the police helicopter at 10:33 a.m. Monday. When the helicopter later returned to the location after refueling, the boat had drifted and could not be relocated. It was spotted again just after 5 p.m. by Cayman Helicopters, and the Coast Guard plane then dropped a tracking beacon at the site.
Boats were out at the site all day Tuesday, searching in a grid pattern around the craft.
The Guardian, a marine police boat that sustained damage in the early part of the search Monday, was repaired and out at the scene Tuesday, attempting to right the upturned craft.
“We would like to thank the boat captains who have volunteered during the search-and-rescue operation,” police said in a statement.
Speaking at a press conference on another matter on Tuesday afternoon, Premier Alden McLaughlin said he was still hopeful that the occupants of the boat may be found alive.
“But things do not look good,” he conceded. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families.”
Compass journalist Alan Markoff contributed to this article.