Coast Guard suspends search for missing diver off Fla. Keys

MIAMI — The Coast Guard has suspended the search for a 32-year-old missing diver from Winter Springs, Florida who was last seen attempting to swim toward a drifting vessel.

The search for Matt Milton was suspended at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday following a four-day search off the Florida coast. Milton was reported being last seen swimming toward a 23-foot fishing vessel after he and a relative, Jeff Stewart, surfaced from diving and saw their vessel drifting away from their position. Steward was rescued after being located clinging to a mooring ball off the coast of Islamorada.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Mr. Milton,” said Lt. Christopher Rowe, command duty officer for the Coast Guard 7th District command center in Miami. “Search and rescue crews worked tirelessly in their search for Mr. Milton. Despite our best efforts we have been unable to locate him, and have made the difficult decision to suspended the search pending any further developments.”

Rescue crews involved in search covered more than 8,250 square nautical miles, an area almost the size of Vermont, during 38 sorties. Search and rescue crews included personnel from:

  • Coast Guard Cutter Dependable
  • Coast Guard Cutter Robert Yered
  • Coast Guard Cutter Bernard Weber
  • Coast Guard Cutter Paul Clark
  • Coast Guard Station Islamorada
  • Coast Guard Air Station Miami
  • Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater
  • Coast Guard Auxiliary
  • United States Navy

Watchstanders in the Coast Guard Sector Key West, Florida command center first learned of the missing divers when they were notified of an overdue fishing vessel at 7 p.m., Saturday.

The report from the owner of a local boat rental company stated a 23-foot fishing vessel with two people aboard left Islamorada at 7 a.m., Saturday and was scheduled to return at 5 p.m., Saturday.

The Coast Guard diverted the Cutter Dependable and a smallboat crew from Coast Guard Station Islamorada.

Station Islamorada crewmembers located Stewart in the water clinging to a mooring ball off the coast of Islamorada. Stewart stated he and Milton were diving, and when they resurfaced they discovered their vessel had drifted away. The two reportedly swam toward the boat, but Stewart was unable to reach the vessel.  He then reportedly drifted and swam for more than three hours until he finally reached the mooring ball where he was rescued.

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