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Three Dead, Including 9-Year-Old, After Boat Sinks Off Florida Coast; One Rescued

by Elisha Fieldstadt /  / Updated 

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Three people, including a 9-year-old, who went missing while boating off the coast of Florida over the weekend were found dead Monday, along with one survivor.

The bodies of Willis Bell, 51-year-old Fernandas Jones, and 9-year-old Jayden Jones were discovered Monday morning near Stuart, Florida, along with their sunken 24-foot Sea Ray, according to the Coast Guard, which had been searching for the boaters since they disappeared Sunday.

Robert Stewart, 45, was found alive in the same vicinity of beach, near Port St. Lucie, according to the Coast Guard. The group was reported missing Sunday night after they didn't return back to shore on time from a fishing trip, the Coast Guard said.

The Martin County Sheriff's Office launched a search along with help from local agencies and the Coast Guard, said Sheriff William Snyder. He said that the water was rough Sunday night. He said later that after the boat took on water, it sunk almost immediately, and no distress call was made. The Coast Guard originally said the boat had capsized.

Coast Guard Officer Randy Ryan added that searching for the boat was difficult due to the high waves and difficulty of searching for a small vessel in the dark. "It's a big ocean, very unforgiving ocean — very difficult conditions for everyone," Ryan said.

Snyder said Stewart, who is hospitalized in good condition, said he tried to keep the 9-year-old boy alive to no avail. “Our survivor said that he had the 9-year-old and held onto him as long as he could but eventually could not hold any longer, and he drowned,” Snyder said.

The Coast Guard said both of the adult men who died were fathers. Jones was a deputy at the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. "Today, we lost a father, a son, a friend, a hero. Deputy Fernandas Jones, we have the watch from here," said a sheriff's office statement.

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