MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Even though the U.S. Coast Guard suspended their search at sunset Friday for two Florida teens missing at sea, people in Jupiter were raising money for private search efforts while holding out hope the boys will be found.
"I don't think anyone you talk to here doesn't have hope still. We want these boys to come, just closure in itself," said Lainey Ruskay who organized the fundraiser.
Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, both 14-years-old, were last seen Friday, July 24th and their capsized boat was found Sunday. They were headed out into the Atlantic in a 19-foot center console boat. Their parents believed their fishing outing would take them to a local river and waterway, as was the rule in previous solo trips, not to deep Atlantic waters.
A seventh night of searches for the two Palm Beach County boys passed with no major break.
Capt. Mark Fedor said the search was a 'true all hands on deck effort,' but the U.S. Coast Guard's finally pulled back all their cutters and planes after looking for eight straight days.
"We believe we reached the limit for our effective search and rescue efforts," said Fedor.
The Coast Guard has been searching for a week straight. They've conducted 56 search patterns covering 43,967 square nautical miles. The search area stretches from Daytona, Florida to Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.
The decision to stop was a difficult one.
"I have a 14 year old and a 13 year old, so the decision to suspend was excruciating and gut wrenching for me personally," said Fedor.
Suspending the search means, "if new information comes to light, we have the ability to reopen the case," said Capt. Fedor. "So I do want to express my heartfelt condolences to the families."
The boys' families say they plan to continue a private search even, and those efforts have intensified.
"We know there's a window here. We think there's an opportunity and we're going to do everything we can to bring these boys home shortly," said Perry's stepfather, Nick Korniloff.
They've created a mini operation center in their homes to coordinate private planes from Florida to South Carolina who are looking for Austin and Perry.
A family statement released at noon reads, "We are continuing the search for Perry and Austin and not giving up until they are rescued. We encourage those interested in joining search efforts by land, air or sea to contact the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org for up-to-date information and coordinates. The next 48-hours are critical and the family and friends are offering $100,000 for the safe return of these boys."
"We have reached out to many ex-military, to people who have special training and that's who we need," said Korniloff.
The coast guard search lasted as long as it did, partly because of the boys themselves, and their ability at sea despite their young age.
"We also took into account their age and their combined will to live, we never discount that," said Fedor.
The boys are described as consummate seamen who grew up on the water and spent much of their free time boating and fishing.
The mothers are hopeful the boys made a raft with life jackets and a cooler – and are still alive.
Meantime, a Florida congressman who represents the community where Perry and Austin live urged the U.S. Coast Guard to keep searching.
"On behalf of the Jupiter community I am humbled to represent, I have a simple message for the Coast Guard: Keep looking. Water temperatures are warm, and Austin and Perry know the water well," said Rep. Patrick E. Murphy.
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