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The Coast Guard made disheartening discoveries Wednesday in its search for a father and three kids: life jackets and two empty kayaks bobbing off the Florida coast.
The finds, hours apart, came three days after the family was last seen in their impaired sailboat.
Officials started looking for Ace Kimberly and his teenage children after learning Tuesday that the four had left Sarasota at 7 a.m. Sunday to go to Fort Myers to do repairs on their boat.
The were last heard from at about 3 p.m. Sunday, when Kimberly called his brother to tell him the boat was in 6-foot seas, and said he was attempting to survive offshore with his children amid the rough waves and thunderstorms. The brother told the Coast Guard on Tuesday that Kimberly had called him for weather reports from on land.
Authorities on Wednesday morning spotted four water bottles tied together, a pair of tennis shoes, a basketball, a water propane tank, and six life jackets, Sector Commander Captain Gregory Case with Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg told reporters.
"That is a dire finding," he said. "We are doing everything we can and throwing everything we have at the search at this time."
Several hours later, the two kayaks, one yellow and one green, were located in the same area, the Coast Guard tweeted.
Kimberly's brother confirmed the items had come from the 29-foot vessel, which vanished near Englewood, on the Gulf of Mexico side of the state. The brother said there had been a total of 7 life jackets aboard the boat, and told officials the family was towing two kayaks behind them.
The items, along with a tarp, were discovered near Sanibel Island, about 33 miles offshore, Case said.
Kimberly and his children — Becky, 17, Donny, 15, and Roger, 13 — had been living in the boat for about a year, anchored in Sarasota, Case said. They were headed to Fort Myers where Kimberly's brother lives so he could help them do some work on it.
"The vessel was not in the best of shape," Case said.
No distress call was issued. There were "squalls, or typical thunderstorms," going across the area when the boat vanished, according to Case.
A HC-130 Hercules plane, a Coast Guard cutter and two other boats were involved in the search.
The family of Perry Cohen, a Florida teenager who went boating with a friend last year and never returned, posted a statement of support on the Perry Cohen Foundation Facebook page Wednesday.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the family, their loved ones and the dedicated men and woman of the United States Coast Guard and Law Enforcement who are conducting the SAR [search and rescue] efforts," the post read.
The boat that Perry and his friend, Austin Stephanos, were on was recovered, but the boys vanished without a trace. Officials still classify them as missing.