ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The Coast Guard suspended the search for the missing North Port boater, in Charlotte Harbor, Florida, Saturday.
During the last 48 hours the Coast Guard completed 23 separate searches for Jim Winkler, 62. The searches totaled 1,686 miles within an area of 779 square miles in Charlotte Harbor.
“Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Mr. Winkler,” said Capt. Gregory Case, Commander Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. ” Suspending a case is never an easy decision to make.”
At 12:15 a.m. Friday, watchstanders from Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg received a 911 transfer call from Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office from a woman stating her husband, Winkler had left the El Jobean boat ramp in the Myakka River at around 2 p.m. on a 20-foot flats boat and had not returned. She reported Winkler never fished passed 10 p.m.
Watchstanders confirmed Winkler’s last cell phone ping was at 7:01 p.m. just south of Cape Haze, Florida.
An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter air crew from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Florida, and a 29-foot Response Boat Small II from Coast Guard Station Fort Myers Beach, Florida, were launched to commence the search after activating the Maritime Emergency Response Team in the area.
At 4:46 a.m. Friday, the Jayhawk helicopter crew found the flats boat near Jug Creek without Winkler aboard.
Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Alligator, homeported in St. Petersburg, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Charlotte Harbor Marine Unit, and Lee County Sheriff’s Office aided in the search.