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Life Jackets Found in Private Search for Missing 14-Year-Old Boaters

Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos disappeared on July 24.

ByABC News
August 5, 2015, 11:18 AM

— -- A Florida helicopter company found two orange life jackets off a sandbar in Savannah, Georgia, that could have been worn by missing teens Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos.

Heli Aviation shared a video on Facebook of Tuesday’s discovery, writing, “Considering that the life vest recovery was during low tide it was only accessible by air.”

The 14-year-old friends have been missing at sea since July 24 when they left the Florida coast in a 19-foot Sea Craft boat. Almost 49,000 square nautical miles were searched by the U.S. Coast Guard by July 31.

The company noted it could not immediately confirm the jackets belonged to the missing boaters, but DEEMI, a search group based in Maine, has sent search dogs to go up and down the Georgia coast in response to the find, an official told ABC News.

DEEMI has been involved in the private search for Cohen and Stephanos since the Coast Guard called off the official search July 31.

The DEEMI search dogs are working to connect the scent from the jackets to the missing teens. The nonprofit has not confirmed the two life jackets belonged to Cohen and Stephanos. It’s also using technology to aid the search by taking and analyzing high-definition photos to canvas search areas, the official said.

Heli Aviation, which did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment, announced Tuesday it is no longer assisting in the private search-and-rescue efforts, according to a Facebook post.

The company wrote that it had received too much negative publicity after being accused of keeping funds raised for the search, which company officials said they donated to a family account.

A GoFundMe page, The Perry & Austin Rescue Fund, has raised close to $500,000 to help provide aircraft and boat fuel for the private search.

A phone call to family spokesman Vince McBeth was not immediately returned.