SARASOTA, FL (WFLA) – A Sarasota flight school may have made a big discovery in the search for two Florida teens who went missing while fishing. A team of volunteers from the school found two life jackets off the coast of Savannah, Georgia. It’s unclear at this time whether those life vests are connected to the missing boys, Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, but the folks at Heli Aviation in Sarasota hope this clue plays a part in solving the case.
Perry and Austin went missing off the coast of Jupiter on July 24. After the Coast Guard suspended its search last week, Heli volunteered three choppers and thousands of dollars to continue looking. On Sunday night, on an inlet off the Georgia coast, the tide was low and a helicopter search team spotted something orange. “It was sitting on top of sea grass,” Rachel Trimpe from Heli Aviation said.
It was a life vest. Another one was found nearby. Trimpe was in Sarasota coordinating the crews that were flying in the search. “It stuck out from the other debris that was around because it was newer, and it didn’t look like it had as much fade as the other items,” she said. “Hopefully it leads to something, it brings some closure to the family, I hope.”
“Helicopters have the advantage. They can stay in one area and hover, and they can get very low, and there’s a lot more room to maneuver,” Trimpe said. “If you can use helicopters to help people, I think that’s the ultimate goal, that people should try to help people. And not everyone has access to a helicopter so you wanna help people when you can.”
The Down East Emergency Medicine Institute in Maine (DEEMI) is coordinating many of the search teams. DEEMI Director Richard Bowie told 8 On Your Side the life vests were removed from the sea grass and taken to be analyzed. Bowie said a search team from New England K9 Search and Rescue brought canines to search for more possible evidence in the surrounding areas.
The families of the teens are thankful for all the help. They released a joint statement saying:
“We are committed to continuing the search to find our Austin and Perry. The outpouring of community support for our families in our time of need has been overwhelming … The generosity, goodwill, and heartfelt prayers of so many have sustained us during this trying ordeal.”