Missing Florida Family at Sea: Debris, Life Jackets Found

June 22, 2016 Updated: October 5, 2018

UPDATE at 6 p.m. Wednesday: One body was found. Full article here.

A search for a missing sailboat with a family on board discovered a debris field 33 miles off Florida shores Wednesday morning. The debris included four waterbottles, one or two tennis shoes, a basketball, a propane tank, six life jackets, and a kayak that the boat towed.

A father sailing with his three teens was reported missing near Englewood, Fla., on Tuesday, June 21. The Coast Guard launched a search and found debris that was consistent with items on the missing boat, Coast Guard Captain Gregory Case said at a Wednesday press conference broadcasted live by local Fox 13 News.

The debris is a “dire finding,” Case said. But it’s also heartening, as it confirmed the Coast Guard has been searching in the right area.

“We’re continuing the search now,” Case said.

Ace Kimberly, 45, from Sarasota and his teenagers Roger Kimberly, 13, Donny Kimberly, 15, and Rebecca Kimberly, 17, left Sarasota at 7 a.m. on Sunday and headed to Fort Myers for repairs on the 29-foot sailboat.

Around 3 p.m. that day, the father called his brother and said the sailboat was in 6-foot seas and he was “attempting to survive with his children offshore of Englewood and requested weather information,” the Coast Guard stated in a press release.

When the family didn’t turn up in Fort Myers, the brother contacted the Coast Guard on Tuesday and the agency sent a helicopter, an airplane, and three boats to search for the family.

The Coast Guard searched through the night.

The aircraft discovered the debris about 33 miles off Sanibel Island on Wednesday morning.

The Coast Guard contacted the brother who confirmed “these items did indeed correlate with his brother’s vessel,” Case said.

The brother said the boat had at least seven life jackets and also towed two kayaks.

The Coast Guard recovered two kayaks, but only one of them belonged to the family, according to Ashley Johnson, a Coast Guard spokeswoman.

The father was living with the children on the boat for about a year in Sarasota, but the boat was “not in the best shape,” Case said.

Case said the boat’s engine probably wasn’t functioning and the family was using a small outboard engine instead.

A “good Samaritan” boat that was in the vicinity helped the Coast Guard recover the debris.

Other family members were contacted by the Coast Guard. “They are terrified, as you can imagine,” Case said.

Case said the search is still in the beginning stage.

“We’re always hopeful and we will do everything we can,” he said.

As of 5:20 p.m. (Eastern Time), the search continues. Johnson said it’s common for Coast Guard to continue searches throughout the night.

Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab