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Diver exploring World War II-era shipwreck off Florida goes missing

5/13: CBS Morning News
5/13: CBS Morning News 20:04

A 39-year-old man went missing on Sunday after free diving near a World War II-era shipwreck, officials said. 

The Coast Guard and the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office launched a search for Virgil Price after he failed to resurface from the area around the Halsey shipwreck, located about 13 miles southeast of Florida's Fort Pierce Inlet, authorities said. The area is about 130 miles north of Miami.

Florida Freedivers, a freediving and spearfishing educator, identified Price as a team member. Price lives in West Palm Beach.

"This is an incredibly difficult time, as Virgil was family to us and a dear friend to so many," Florida Freedivers said in a Monday Facebook post. 

Price was last seen wearing a green wetsuit with an orange stripe on the hood, yellow weights on his weight belt, and black carbon fiber fins, the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office said. 

Last year, Coast Guard Capt. Jason Ingram described diving as "an inherently dangerous activity" after a 44-year-old diver went missing about 7 miles off of Key West, Florida.

Officials are searching for a diver who went missing in Florida
The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office joined the search for a missing diver. St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office

The Halsey was built in 1920, according to Fishing Status, a site that provides data for the fishing community. The ship, owned by American Petroleum Transport Corp., was en route from Corpus Christi, Texas to New York with a cargo of 80,000 barrels of fuel oil, gasoline and naphtha when it was struck by a torpedo. The Halsey split in half and burst into flames after being hit. The 32 crew members boarded two lifeboats and were towed to shore by a fishing boat. 

According to Fishing Status, the ship now sits in three pieces on a sand bottom 65 feet under water. The bow and stern are upright, while the midsection is upside down.

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