The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its active search for the remaining members of the Kimberly family, missing at sea since last Sunday, around 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Capt. Gregory Case announced.
“It’s the most difficult decision I ever had to make in this position,” Case said from the Coast Guard base in St. Petersburg.
He based the decision, he said, on several factors including area covered in the search, resources available, time since disappearance and the weather.
Case confirmed the two bodies found this week belonged to 17-year-old Rebecca Kimberly and her father, Ace Kimberly. The daughter wore a life jacket, the father did not, said Case.
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Florida Fish and Wildlife will now take over the investigation.
Also on the boat were Donny Kimberly, 15, and Roger Kimberly, 13. The family of four, which lived on the boat, set sail for Fort Myers out of Sarasota on Sunday to take the boat in for repairs. Ace Kimberly told his brother by telephone they were caught in rough seas and storms during the trip. Nothing else would be heard from the boat. The multi-agency search party found boat debris, including two kayaks, during the week.
Coast Guard officials said during a news conference Wednesday a debris field was located about 30 miles off Sanibel Island. Among the items found were six life vests, water bottles, a tarp, a propane tank and a basketball. Also located; two kayaks that were attached to the back of the boat.
On Tuesday, Coast Guard officials in St. Petersburg received a report from a concerned family member of the missing sailors stating the family left Sarasota at 7 a.m. Sunday en route to Fort Myers to repair the sailboat.
"So the vessel was not in the best of shape," Case said.
Later Sunday, Kimberly called his brother and stated the sailboat was in a storm, in 6-foot seas and that he was attempting to survive with his children offshore of Englewood.
Bay News 9 contributed.