Coast Guard suspends search for four boaters missing since Thursday

A HC-144 Ocean Sentry fixed-wing plane, the type of aircraft that joined the search out of Air Station Miami
A HC-144 Ocean Sentry fixed-wing plane, the type of aircraft that joined the search out of Air Station Miami U.S. Coast Guard

A four-day search for four boaters missing near Puerto Rico has been suspended, the Coast Guard has announced.

From Friday afternoon to sunset Tuesday, the Coast Guard had been searching for Hector Mendez, 60; Hector Mendez, Jr., 30; Javier Mendez, 52; Victor Goitia, 59; and their boat, the Wepa, a 22-foot, white Proline recreational craft.

They were expected to return to Villa Marina in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, on Thursday afternoon.

“As with any search and rescue case, Coast Guard men and women put their heart and soul into achieving a positive outcome for which one of the most difficult decisions is to suspend a search without finding any survivors,” said Coast Guard Capt. Eric King, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “For the past five days, the Coast Guard, along with all of our partner agencies, put forth a maximum effort to locate the four boaters who remain missing. Our hearts and our prayers are with the Mendez and Goitia family during this most difficult time.”

A towing and salvage company in Fajardo reported getting a call for help around 5 p.m. Thursday after the Wepa took mechanical damage near Icacos Cay. When the towing service got to the scene about 30 minutes later, the Coast Guard said, “no signs of the Wepa or its occupants were found at the scene.”

The ensuing search by the Coast Guard; Puerto Rico police; Puerto Rico National Guard; Puerto Rico Department of Public Security; the Civil Air Patrol; and the Bureau of the State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management covered 22,000 square nautical miles. The search went over Puerto Rico’s eastern waters between Fajardo, Viques and Culebra and over 80 miles offshore across Puerto Rico’s northern coast, according to the Coast Guard.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.