Crews search for missing dive instructor in waters off Key West

Thomas Faulkenberry (Twitter: @USCGSoutheast)

KEY WEST, Fla. – U.S. Coast Guard crews, along with contingents from local and state agencies, are searching for a missing dive instructor who was last seen near an artificial reef off the coast of Key West Wednesday, officials said.

According to the Coast Guard, Thomas Faulkenberry, 44, of Stock Island, was last seen near the Vandenberg Wreck.

The sunken ship, a former military vessel, is located about seven miles south of the Key West International Airport.

According to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, which is assisting in the search, Faulkenberry “went missing after a 9:20 a.m. dive wearing black dive gear with black fins during a chartered dive” for Key West-based Lost Reef Adventures.

MCSO spokesperson Adam Linhardt said the agency is using its recently-acquired remote-operated vehicle in the search.

“The ROV is often used to search at extreme depths,” Linhardt said. “The ROV provides sonar imaging to the surface, which can greatly improve search efforts.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has also joined search efforts, which continued into Wednesday evening.

Anyone with information is asked to call Coast Guard Sector Key West at 305-282-8727. Mariners were advised to radio VHF channel 16.

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Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.