ST. PETERSBURG, FL (WFLA) – U.S. Coast Guard officials announced on Wednesday afternoon that they had found a body during their search for a missing boat that carried a father and his three teenage children. The boat disappeared off the Florida coast near Englewood over the weekend.
The Coast Guard has not identified the body yet. A press conference is planned for 10 a.m. Thursday.
Earlier Wednesday, US Coast Guard search crews located a debris field and a kayak in their search for the family.
Ace Kimberly, 45, and his three kids, 13-year-old Roger, 15-year-old Donny and 17-year-old Rebecca, left Sarasota Sunday morning on the 29-foot sailboat that the family lived on for about one year.
A deckhand who works close to where the family kept their boat tells us, they actually lived on tow sailboats at the marina.
“They were a close-knit family. They kind of kept to themselves, not too many people knew about them too much,” said Derek Sledjaski.
The family was heading to Ft. Myers Beach to repair the sailboat, however, the boat went missing along the trip.
The voyage with the four aboard started early Sunday near Marina Jacks restaurant in Sarasota. On Tuesday, Ace Kimberly called his brother in Fort Myers, reporting 6-foot seas off Englewood and that he was attempting to survive. There were squalls and thunderstorms in the area at the time, according to Coast Guard officials.
US Coast Guard confirmed on Twitter Tuesday night that the boat was missing. A Maritime Emergency Response Team was activated which includes numerous state and local maritime emergency responders by sea and by air.
In a press conference Wednesday morning, Coast Guard officials say a debris field was located 37 miles west of Sanibel Island, by an aircraft around 9:30 a.m. Crews located a tarp, four water jugs, six life jackets, tennis shoes, a throwable life ring, a basketball and a propane tank. There was no sign of the boat. Later on Wednesday afternoon, the Coast Guard tweeted that search crews had found a green kayak that is believed to belong to the missing family.
The Coast Guard said it is “throwing everything they have at the search” at this time, and they are now “concentrating efforts on finding family.”
“Finding the kayak and life jackets signals that we are in a dire situation,” said Captain Greg Case, Commander of Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. “We are continuing to keep in very close contact with the family and keep them updated on all developments during this difficult time. Locating the debris inside of our search field indicates that we are in the right area, and we are aggressively searching for Ace, Becky, Donny and Roger.”
Despite the gloomy situation, they still have hope of finding more survivors.
“This is still an ongoing search and rescue. And we still have three persons out there that we’re trying desperately to locate,” said Captain Case.
The Coast Guard will not say if the body they pulled out of the Gulf is male or female, or if it an adult or one of the teens.
They also found two kayaks being towed by the sailboat.
The Coast Guard asks boaters to keep a sharp lookout and contact Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg at (727) 824-7506 with any information regarding the whereabouts of the missing family.