On Monday the US Navy announced that it would lend resources and personnel in the search of 14-year-olds Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, who were last seen on Friday buying $110 in gas for their boat near Jupiter, Florida. According to Fox News, the Navy destroyer USS Carney will be joining four Coast Guard ships, along with other vessels and aircraft, in searching a 27,000-square-mile area off the coast of Jacksonville.
“We’re continuing the search and we maintain the highest level of optimism going into this,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann in a briefing on Monday.
Cohen and Stephanos set off last week in a 19-foot, single-engine boat as part of an unsupervised fishing trip. According to family, both boys were experienced anglers and boaters and there was little concern for their well being.
“Austin has been on the water since before he could walk,” Stephanos’s mother, Carly Black, told NBC News. “This is his fourth boat. This isn’t new to them. These boys have been doing this…it’s not even second nature at this point. It’s in their blood…they’re out there.”
Cohen and Stephanos were eligible under Florida regulations to operate a boat by themselves. Still, the boys were advised by their parents to stay within the intercoastal area and avoid the open ocean. Their last contact with family was on Friday, and on Sunday morning the Coast Guard discovered their capsized vessel about 70 miles offshore from the Ponce de Leon Inlet. There was a single life jacket found floating in the water, but no signs of the teenagers or where they could have swam to. Coast Guard officials remain optimistic that the boys will be found safe, but the discovery of their vessel means that the situation is dire.
“It’s one thing for the boys to be missing inside the vessel, and it’s another thing for them to be missing in open water. Now they’re in an even worse situation if they are to be in the water right now,” Lehmann said.
You can see part of the Coast Guard briefing below:
Since the weekend, Coast Guard ships have already searched an area the size of West Virginia. The boys’ parents have also promised a reward of $100,000 for information leading to their rescue, but officials advise volunteers from getting involved in the search as they might get in the way.
“Our hopes are that they find those children,” said Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, a family friend who is putting up part of the reward.
A separate Gofundme campaign has also raised over $100,000 as of Tuesday to help finance the search.
Many have criticized Stephanos and Cohen’s parents for letting the boys take the trip alone, including some experts.
“They should ask: ‘Should I send a teenager who has no experience with crisis out into the largest wilderness in the world, completely surrounded on all sides by something that will kill them if they get in it?'” marine safety expert Mario Vittone told The Washington Post.
While the teenagers may be skilled boaters, Vittone argued that at their age, they may still be emotionally and mentally unprepared to handle an emergency.
“It’s a warning call for everyone else unfortunately for what could happen to you,