The father of missing Florida teen Austin Stephanos—who, along with his friend Perry Cohen, went missing in July 2015—shared an update about Stephanos’ recovered iPhone.
Perry and Austin disappeared when they went fishing last year. A lengthy search turned up nothing, but in March, a Norwegian vessel found the boys’ boat, personal items, and Austin’s waterlogged iPhone. The boys were never found.
A few weeks ago, the iPhone was sent to Apple in order to revive the device and get any information from it.
Blu Stephanos, Austin’s father, wrote Wednesday, May 11, that Apple couldn’t do anything with the phone.
He wrote on Facebook that his son’s “iPhone could not be restored to working order,” adding that Apple told his attorney that “the phone is currently in several pieces, since testing required them to disassemble it in order to run the diagnostics, clean and restore components and perform a chemical workup.”
He also wrote, in part:
If the FBI turned to Apple when they needed help, I see no reason to doubt that every possible means was employed to get Austin’s phone working again. It’s our understanding that Apple had a team assigned to the iPhone around the clock, and for that we are truly grateful.
Needless to say, we were disappointed, having hoped to get some information or maybe just some final memories from Austin’s phone. But the fact that it can no longer function as a phone doesn’t diminish its value as a cherished memory of my beloved son. It’s a small piece of him; something he used to call me at night when he needed to talk to someone, something he put his stickers on and carried with him every day. As any parent would understand, to me, it’s not a broken phone, but a memory of my son that I will hold close to my heart and treasure for the rest of my life.
The Cohen family also issued a statement, saying that more could be done.
“Apple also made it clear that getting the iPhone to power up was its only commitment to Blu Stephanos, which differs from what we heard from his attorney in court,” Pamela Cohen, Perry’s mother, wrote on Instagram.
— Greg Angel (@NewsGuyGreg) May 11, 2016
“As I’ve said before, I owe it to Perry to exhaust every possible avenue in pursuit of finding out what happened to him,” she added.
According to Apple, there are other experts in the field who may be able to pick up where Apple left off, to continue the work. Apple has offered to securely hand the iPhone off to an expert in this technology if the families can agree on such an expert. We look forward to working cooperatively with Austin’s family toward this transition. We are not giving up on the iPhone’s potential for evidence until all viable efforts have been exhausted.
The discovery of the iPhone triggered a brief legal dispute between the two families, with the Cohens filing a lawsuit against the Stephanos and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The Cohens had wanted the phone to be examined to see if any more information—such as text messages, unsent text messages, or GPS location data—could be gathered from it. The families then agreed to send the device to Apple.
“One of the problems that we seem to have run into is even if the phone was able to be powered on, it is running the 8.4 iOS [operating system] software, which is very challenging, if not impossible to break the access code/password,” the Stephanos attorney, Michael Pike, told the Orlando Sun-Sentinel.
Stephanos said that since Apple has said the phone is unusable, he hopes his family can grieve in private.