Two Florida teens set out on a fishing expedition on July 24, 2015, and were never seen again. Nine months have passed since the two 14-year-old friends, Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, set out in their 19-ft. single-engine fishing boat from Florida’s Jupiter Inlet. The boys were last seen purchasing fuel near Jupiter, prior to taking off on their expedition and it remains a mysteriously how they were lost at sea.
The two South Florida teens went missing during an unexpected storm. Their boat is believed to have capsized resulting in the disappearance of the teens. Their disappearance has led to multiple searches by the coast guard, as well as a private search team funded by the boys’ families. After a week of intense searching, from Florida to North Carolina, both groups called off their efforts.
The clues that have been discovered thus far, in the Florida teens’ disappearance, have only added to the mystery. In March 2016, the capsized boat was discovered floating in the sea along with several personal items that belonged to the lost boys that remained in the boat. The exact location of where the boat was found has not been released.
The boat, as well as the personal items, are currently with the Florida branch of the Fish and Wildlife Commission. This is where more mysteries begin. In addition to where the families begin to be at odds into the handling of the investigation into the lost Florida teens.
During the investigation of the found fishing boat, evidence was discovered that implies the boat may have been tampered with. Prior to the doomed fishing boat being packed for shipping, the individuals who discovered the vessel took several photos. The images showed the boat’s battery switch and ignition key had been put in the off position potentially by a third party. Guy Rubin, Perry’s family attorney, stated that the location of the battery switch would be impossible to reach in high-pressure situations like a storm.
There was also an iPhone discovered among the debris of the boat. The iPhone belonged to Stephanos, who seemingly snap chatted their dire situation while lost at sea. The teens’ families are at odds regarding the handling of the only piece of technology that may reveal the fate of the Florida boys. The phone, which remains in the custody of Florida authorities, is where the Perry family believes it belongs. The family wants investigators to have the opportunity to examine the phone’s contents further. The Stephanos family would like all of their son’s remaining personal items returned to them.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Agency released over 100-pages of social media reports, cell phone tower records, interview notes and FBI emails that reveal some details behind the mystery of the boys’ days lost at sea. The remaining details within the documents are all that the families have left to discover clues as to what may have happened to the Florida friends.
The last potential time one of the Florida boys may have been seen was on a make-shift raft at sea a few days after their disappearance, when a pilot believed he saw someone signaling for help. The pilot thought he saw one of the lost Florida teens floating on a Styrofoam raft. However, when the coast guard returned to the area, they did not discover either the boys nor a raft that remained in the water. At this time, there are only lawsuits between the families regarding what to do with the mysterious information that has been discovered.
The Stephanos family has founded a not-for-profit organization in honor of the Florida teens called, the AustinBlu Foundation. The family is lobbying to prevent boating accidents and fatalities through the raising of awareness, education and making tools and technology available to keep safe. The family would like to prevent others from experiencing the pain of losing a loved one at sea.
By Gichele Cocrelle
Edited by Jeanette Smith
People: Florida Teens Lost at Sea: Everything we know so far
Fox News: Pilot may have spotted one of the 2 missing teen fisherman days after disappearance
WFLA.com: Pilot may have spotted lost Florida teens who disappeared at sea
Photo Courtesy of Kelly Park Merrit Island Florida’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License