Personal items found in recovered boat of 2 missing Florida teens

Missing boaters Perry Cohen, left, and Austin Stephanos.
Missing boaters Perry Cohen, left, and Austin Stephanos.

TEQUESTA -- The parents of one of two teenagers lost at sea last summer says their boat and an iPhone has been found.

The Palm Beach Post reported Saturday the parents of Perry Cohen said the 19-foot-long boat was spotted 100 miles off the coast of Bermuda, which is about 660 miles east-southeast of North Carolina's Outer Banks.

The boat still had some personal items in it including an iPhone belonging to Austin Stephanos.

Last July, Stephanos and Cohen -- both 14 -- left Jupiter Inlet on Florida east coast in the boat and never returned. Lengthy searches by the Coast Guard and private pilots turned up no clues.

The U.S. Coast Guard initially located the boat off New Smyrna Beach, but the company hired by the Coast Guard to bring the boat back couldn't find it.

After 16 days of a search that spanned four states, the families of two missing teen boaters from South Florida ended the effort to find the boys.

A family spokesman said in a release: "absent of new information, continuing the search is not practical."

With the help of social media, the mission to find Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos of Tequesta intensified just a few days after July 24 when the two 14-year-olds were reported missing from Jupiter Inlet.

The Coast Guard suspended its search July 31, but private parties continued to scour coastlines in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

The Facebook group "Find Austin and Perry" had 300,000 members within one week and the family's GoFundMe account, started by Perry's mother, Pamela Telvi Cohen, reached a goal of $475,000.

The search campaign ended with a sobering statement.

"Today, our hope becomes our prayer -- that one day Perry and Austin will be returned to us. We thank everyone for their dedicated efforts and support," the families said in a joint statement.

The search became a startling reality for many South Floridians who live the "saltwater life," families who grow up on boats, without fear of the water. Perry and Austin were typical boating teens who loved the outdoors, said Nick Korniloff, Perry's stepfather.

"Perry tried baseball and skateboarding, but if you put a fishing rod in front of him -- on the water is where he wants to be," Korniloff said in an interview two weeks ago.

During the search, small towns along the Atlantic coast held candlelight vigils and fundraisers -- selling bracelets and T-shirts, creating artwork and videos. Hashtags like #JupiterStrong, #SaltLifeKids and #FindAustinandPerry kept thousands connected via social media.

Austin's father, Blu Stephanos, reported his own search via Facebook as he went in a private plane.

"I want nothing more right now than to be my son's hero," he posted.

Later, on Aug. 4, Stephanos wrote: "I spoke before about being my son's hero. ... well, right now, you are all my heroes. You have confirmed my faith in the goodness of people ... all the amazing people across the country."

Followers reported every turn of the search -- from the discovery of the boys' boat off Cape Canaveral on July 26, to aerial shots of search areas as pilots searched north of Jupiter. More than 50 Facebook groups under "Find Austin and Perry" were created, making streamlined communication difficult during the search.

The Miami Herald contributed to this story.

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