FLORIDA– Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos have been boating for so long that they’re just as comfortable at sea as they are on land.
That’s the hope their families and friends say they’re holding onto as Coast Guard crews search for the 14-year-olds, who went missing on a fishing trip off the Florida coast about 12 miles south of Daytona Beach on Friday.
“We just keep on praying, man,” said Joe Namath, a renowned former NFL quarterback and neighbor of the teens. He told reporters Sunday that he was helping with the search, according to CNN affiliate WPTV. “It’s hard, it’s so hard, but we’ve got to believe in their wherewithal.”
After nearly two days of searching, the Coast Guard said Sunday that searchers had spotted the 19-foot boat in which the teens had been traveling. The capsized vessel was discovered 67 nautical miles off Florida’s Ponce de Leon Inlet, the Coast Guard said. But the missing boys haven’t been found.
The boys’ families are offering a $100,000 reward for their rescue and asking experienced boaters in the area to help in the search.
“They know the waters. They’ve been through rough water, they’ve been through thin water. … Those are salty dog kids, and they know what they’re doing out there,” said Nick Korniloff, Perry’s stepfather, who told reporters Sunday that the families would stop at nothing to bring their children home.
The teens were last seen on Friday around Jupiter, Florida, when they bought $110 worth of fuel before setting out on their trip.
Their grandmother contacted the Coast Guard four hours later when she hadn’t heard from them, Barney said.
“We’re heavily concerned for their well-being, and we’re doing everything we can do to bring them back home,” Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Mark Barney told CNN earlier Sunday, before the boat was found.
The discovery of the capsized boat, he said, means the missing teens could be in a more dire situation than officials feared.
“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,” he said.
Authorities in the Bahamas have also been notified about the missing teens, Barney said, because of reports that Perry and Austin had talked about heading to the island nation.
People packed the bleachers at Jupiter Christian School Sunday evening, their heads bowed in prayer.
Michael Dube, the upper school principal, called for parents to pray for the missing boys as if they were their own children.
“We pray that Austin and Perry will be found safe,” he said, “that they will be returned home to their moms and their dads, that will hug them and kiss them and love them.”
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