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Families of missing teens thankful for Coast Guard's help despite missing boat

Families continue private search for Perry Cohen, Austin Stephanos

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JUPITER, Fla. – The families of two 14-year-old boys who have been lost at sea since July 24 said they are thankful for the U.S. Coast Guard's help despite the 19-foot boat they were on disappearing after it was located.

"Our families praise the Coast Guard's dedicated efforts, both before and after the vessel was located," the Cohen and Stephanos families said in a statement Wednesday. "The priority of the Coast Guard was to rescue Perry and Austin, not the boat. We remain thankful for their quick reaction, and then redirection of the enormous search plan for the boys after the capsized boat was discovered. We have been assured and remain confident that all possible scenarios regarding this incident were entered into the Coast Guards search model."

The Coast Guard suspended search efforts for the boys at sunset last Friday. The friends were on a fishing trip in the Jupiter Inlet, when authorities believe they wandered out to sea, perhaps attempting to travel to the Bahamas.

TowBoatUS said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission contacted it to retrieve the boat about 67 nautical miles east of the Ponce De Leon Inlet. But the company said it's no longer in the area where the Coast Guard last spotted it.

The Coast Guard does not normally tow boats to shore. Coast Guard officials said that after a diver determined that no one was on board, officials marked the location and kept searching for the boys.

The teens' families said private searches are still underway for the boys by air and sea. They said a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the private searches has been fully funded and is no longer accepting donations.

"We are committed to continuing the search to find our Austin and Perry," the families said in a statement. "The outpouring of community support for our families in our time of need has been overwhelming. From the pilots and mariners who have provided their planes, helicopters, ships, and boats, to the volunteers who have conducted beach searches, provided electronic surveillance, and launched social media campaigns to heighten awareness, to the financial contributions that fund the search; the generosity, goodwill, and heartfelt prayers of so many have sustained us during this trying ordeal."

A family representative said the private search spans from the coastline of Jupiter to Wilmington, North Carolina.

Those searching for the boys are hoping to find articles that may have been on the boat in hopes that it will narrow the search for Perry and Austin. The spokesman said canine-life tracking experts are on hand to assist in the processing of items recovered during the search.

Items missing from the vessel include life vests, a white YETI Tundra 35-quart cooler, a recently painted engine cover (Yamaha silver-grey) with no decals, a translucent Plano tackle box and a pair of white Royal brand fishing/rain boots.

Anyone who finds items believed to have been on the boys' boat is asked to call 1-352-222-3314 or email findperryandaustin@gmail.com.

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