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Coast Guard Suspends Search For Missing Boaters

By March 5, 2009

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As of Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., the Coast Guard suspended its search for the remaining three boaters who were reported missing after departing for their fishing trip off Clearwater Pass early Saturday.

According to Coast Guard reports, Victor "Marquis" Cooper, Nick Schuyler, Corey Smith and William Bleakley departed Seminole Boat Ramp in Clearwater Pass in a 21-foot center- console boat Saturday, Feb. 28, 6:30 a.m. Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg were notified on Sunday, March 1, 1:30 a.m. when the group failed to return from their fishing trip as expected.

The Coast Guard immediately began a search for the four men by launching numerous aircraft, cutters and small boats. Among the vessels involved in the search were:

  • HC-130 Hercules aircrews from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater
  • HH-60 Jayhawk aircrews from Air Station Clearwater
  • HU-25 Falcon aircrews from Coast Guard Air Station Miami
  • An HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrew from Aviation Training Center Mobile, Ala.
  • An Air Force C-130 aircrew from Moody Air Force Base, Ga.
  • Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter aircrews from Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.
  • The 179-foot cutter Tornado from Pascagoula, Miss.
  • The 110-foot cutter Nantucket from St. Petersburg
  • The 87-foot cutter Crocodile from St. Petersburg
  • A 47-foot motor lifeboat crew from Coast Guard Station Sand Key, Fla.
  • Boat crews from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

On Monday, a crew member aboard the cutter Tornado located an overturned vessel. Schuyler was found clinging to the outboard motor approximately 35 miles west of Tampa Bay. An HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew was diverted to medically evacuate Schuyler and transport him to Tampa General Hospital. Coast Guard rescue crews searched for nearly three days, covering more than 24,000 square miles with no sign of Cooper, Smith or Bleakley.

The initial weather conditions during the search were 14-foot seas with 30- to 35-knot winds and had reduced to one- to three-foot seas with 10- to 15-knot winds by Tuesday. The water temperatures was 61 degrees.

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater and the Coast Guard Cutter Tornado rescue Nick Schuyler from an overturned vessel 35 miles west of Tampa Bay on Monday, March 2.
Photo courtesy of FIREMAN ADAM CAMPBELL/COAST GUARD

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