Coast Guard suspends search for group of four overdue boaters in the vicinity of Stuart, Florida

The Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton, a 418-foot Legend Class Cutter, is escorted by the Coast Guard Cutter William Flores off the coast of Miami, Nov. 11, 2014. The Hamilton is the fourth National Security Cutter designed to replace the 378-foot high endurance cutters, which have been in service since the 1960s. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Barney)MIAMI — Search-and-rescue crews have suspended the search and rescue operations for four people who were reportedly overdue in the vicinity of Stuart, Florida, since Sunday evening after three were found deceased and one was found alive Monday morning.

Deceased are Willis Bell, age unknown; Fernandez Jones, 51; and Jayden Jones, 9.

Robert Stewart, 45, was found alive on the beach south of St. Lucie Inlet, Florida.

“Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the deceased during this very difficult time. Despite our best efforts, this case ended in tragedy with the loss of two fathers and a son,” said Chief Warrant Officer Randy Ryan, Officer in Charge at Coast Guard Station Ft. Pierce, Florida.

Coast Guard Sector Miami Command Center watchstanders received a call from Fernandez Jones’ wife reporting her husband overdue.  They had departed Sandsprit Park for a fishing trip at approximately 8 a.m.on Sunday, with three other people aboard his 24-foot black Sea Ray and did not arrive back at sunset as expected. It is not known where the group was headed but on previous trips, per the wife’s report, the operator was known to fish in the Intracoastal Waterway and offshore of Stuart, Florida.

Sector Miami Command Center watchstanders issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast to mariners, launched a Coast Guard Station Lake Worth boatcrew, a Coast Guard Station Fort Pierce boatcrew and a Coast Guard Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft crew to search for the boaters.

The Coast Guard Cutter William Flores, a 154-foot fast response cutter homeported out of Miami, Florida, arrived on scene to assist with the search at approximately 4:30 a.m, Monday. A Coast Guard Air Station Miami MH-65 helicopter crew was launched for a first light search at approximately 7 a.m., Monday.  A good Samaritan and Martin County Sheriff’s deputies found three victims, one survivor and the capsized vessel.

Partner agencies who assisted in the search were:

*       Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
*       Martin County Sheriff’s Office
*       Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office
*       City of Port St. Lucie Police Department

Martin County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.

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