A high seas hit-n-run? We certainly hope not…
The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking information from the public to help identify the source of a large debris field spotted Sunday evening in the Atlantic Ocean about 22 miles east of the entrance to the St. Johns River in Florida.
An update from the USCG Monday morning confirmed that so far one body has been recovered amid the debris, and it is still unknown if additional people are in the water or otherwise in distress. The USCG has identified the victim as Guillermo Gonzalez Losada, 49. Losada had a Venezuelan passport and his last known residence was in Miami.
According to the USCG statement, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission aircrew reported the debris at about 6 p.m. on Sunday evening. Among the wreckage were two large pieces of a vessel, 10 life jackets, flares, and an oil sheen.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville in Atlantic Beach confirmed with organizers from the El Cheapo fishing tournament, which occurred in the area Sunday, that all participants and vessels involved in the tournament are accounted for.
Coast Guard assets involved in the search include a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard said that the cutter, Cormorant, was en route to area as of Sunday night along with a C-130 Hercules plane from Air Station Clearwater. The Coast Guard Cutter Kingfisher was aslo slated to join the search Monday morning.
The St. Johns River is of course home to the Port of Jacksonville, or JAXPORT, one of the busier ports in the state of Florida for both commercial cargoes and cruise ships. In 2012, JAXPORT’s three marine terminals handled a total of 8.2 million tons of cargo, including more than 923,000 TEUs and more than 600,000 vehicles.
Anyone with information about the debris field is urged to contact Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville at 904-564-7511.
Update: The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its active search at 4:23 p.m. Tuesday for any additional people possibly in the water or otherwise in distress off the coast of Atlantic Beach.
“The decision to suspend our search as well as the decisions made throughout our response to this tragic incident have been exceptionally challenging due to the lack of critical information we ordinarily rely on, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Losada’s loved ones during this difficult time,” said Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Deputy Commander, Cmdr. Russell Holmes. “Unfortunately, many of the questions that arose immediately after we learned of the wreckage remain unanswered.”
It remains unknown if additional people were aboard the vessel with Losada or what caused the vessel to break apart.
Coast Guard crews scoured roughly 2,800 square nautical miles and actively searched for 40 hours.