FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A pilot who was part of a massive search to find two missing teen boaters told investigators that he's positive he saw one floating on debris two days after their boat capsized.
According to a report released this week, Bobby Smith told Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators reconstructing the disappearance of Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos that he was flying off the Georgia coast on July 26 at about 1,000 feet when he saw two white pieces of debris tied together with an orange life jacket.
Smith went to 200 feet and saw a person. He said he climbed so he could radio controllers, but when he went back down, he could no longer find the person.
The U.S. Coast Guard went to the area and also could not find anything.
Austin and Perry disappeared last July after they left for a fishing trip off the coast of Jupiter.
During its search, the Coast Guard spotted the overturned 19-foot boat near Daytona Beach, almost 200 miles from where the boys departed. It was gone by the time a recovery boat arrived at the location.
A Norwegian freighter came across the capsized boat March 18 in a shipping channel near Bermuda.
The cellphone, two fishing rods and two small tackle boxes were returned to the boys' families. The boat was shipped from Norway back to Florida and is expected to arrive at Port Everglades in May.
According to the report, a woman told investigators that she saw a boat with two boys aboard broken down about 200 to 300 yards off the Jupiter coast during the storm. Her phone records show that she called the Coast Guard three times, but she said it appeared the boys got the boat started and headed off before any help arrived.
Investigators did a re-creation with the woman using a similar-sized boat and people in clear weather, and she was unable to identify characteristics about the occupants, including their gender.