Families of Florida teens missing at sea not giving up hope, mother says

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Coast Guard search-and-rescue crews continue the search for two boys reported overdue after not returning from their fishing trip in the vicinity of Jupiter, Florida, Saturday, July 25, 2015. Austin Stephanos (left) 14, and Perry Cohen (right), 14, are missing. The pair was last seen in the Jupiter area.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The search for two 14-year-old boys who went missing on a Friday fishing trip has moved north and is focused off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday.

Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos were last seen around Jupiter, Florida, reportedly heading to the Bahamas to fish. The Coast Guard found their 19-foot boat Sunday, capsized 67 nautical miles (about 77 miles, or 124 kilometers) off Florida’s Ponce de Leon Inlet

There was no sign of the boys, but their families and friends are holding out hope they’ll be found, one of the boys’ mothers said Monday morning.

“None of us are giving up hope they’ll find those boys,” Pamela Cohen, the mother of Perry Cohen, said on CNN’s “New Day.” “I have 100% faith they’ll find our boys.”

“The history of the high seas have survival rates over the years,” said football great Joe Namath, a friend of the boys. “There have been miracles out there, and we’re planning on finding the children.”

Storms may hinder the search, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said. The air and sea search teams may encounter heavy rain, frequent lightning and gusty winds this afternoon through this evening, he said.

Weather radar also showed high winds and storms Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the area where the boys were last seen and where the boat was found, he said.

Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Mark Barney said Monday that searchers in aircraft flew over the water throughout Sunday night.

“It would be very hard for us to do our jobs if we didn’t hold on to some form of hope,” he said.

A tweet from the Coast Guard said about 26,000 square nautical miles have been covered.

$100,000 reward offered

The boys’ families are offering a $100,000 reward for their rescue and are asking experienced boaters in the area to help in the search.

“They know the waters. They’ve been through rough water, they’ve been through thin water. … Those are salty dog kids, and they know what they’re doing out there,” said Nick Korniloff, Perry’s stepfather, who told reporters Sunday that the families would stop at nothing to bring their children home.

The teens were last seen Friday when they bought $110 worth of fuel before setting out on their trip.

“Their grandmother contacted the Coast Guard four hours later when she hadn’t heard from them,” Barney said.

“We’re heavily concerned for their well-being, and we’re doing everything we can do to bring them back home,” Barney said.

The discovery of the capsized boat, he said, means the missing teens could be in a direr situation than officials feared.

“It’s one thing for the boys to be missing inside the vessel, and it’s another thing for them to be missing in open water. … Now they’re in an even worse situation if they are to be in the water right now,” he said.

And spotting people in the water isn’t easy, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Steve Lehmann.

“It can be very tricky, especially searching from the air. It’s a needle in a haystack out there,” he said, “and that’s one of the reasons life jackets are orange, so it gives us better visibility in cases like this.”

It’s unknown whether the boys are wearing life jackets, he said.

Reports: Boys planned to travel to Bahamas

Officials and family members say they don’t know whether that’s what the teens had in mind when they set sail Friday. Now, they say their only concern is bringing them home.

People packed the bleachers at Jupiter Christian School on Sunday evening, their heads bowed in prayer.

Michael Dube, the upper school principal, called for parents to pray for the missing boys as if they were their own children.

“We pray that Austin and Perry will be found safe,” he said, “that they will be returned home to their moms and their dads, that will hug them and kiss them and love them.”