Crews searching waters off the Florida coast for a man and his three teenage children reported missing after setting off on a sailboat three days ago have found two empty kayaks believed to have been secured to the boat, the U.S. Coast Guard said on Wednesday.
Ace Kimberly, 45, two sons aged 13 and 15, a 17-year-old daughter and their 29-foot (9-meter) sailboat have not been located, Coast Guard Captain Gregory Case told reporters.
The Kimberly family was last seen on Sunday morning, when they set sail from Sarasota, Florida, headed to Fort Myers.
Later that day, Ace Kimberly phoned his brother from the boat and told him he was struggling with rough seas and thunderstorms off Englewood, a community about 30 miles (48 km)south of Sarasota, Case said.
“That was the last that he heard from him,” Case said.
The family, which had lived on the vessel for about a year, was traveling to Fort Myers to have the boat repaired, Case said. The boat was in poor condition, he added.
At first light on Wednesday, the Coast Guard sent an HC-130 Hercules rescue air crew to resume its search for the missing family.
Search crews spotted a debris field at midday 33 miles (53 km) offshore that included six life vests, a basketball, propane tank, tennis shoes and several water bottles, which Kimberly’s brother identified as belonging to his relatives.
Earlier on Wednesday, before the discovery of the kayaks, the brother said the group might have had an additional life vest and two kayaks that were not spotted by search crews, which had heartened searchers hoping to find the family alive, Case said.
The kayaks, one green and one yellow, were located by the afternoon, the Coast Guard said in a statement.
The search, which has also involved several state and local maritime emergency responders, will continue throughout the day.