Coast Guard: Search for teens will be suspended at sunset

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Families of Missing Teen Boaters Won't Give Up

OPA-LOCKA, Fla. (AP) — The Coast Guard will suspend its search at sunset for two teenage fishermen who've been missing for a week, officials said Friday.

However, Capt. Mark Fedor said the search would continue in the meantime and has been a "true all hands on deck effort." He said the Coast Guard took into consideration Perry Cohen's and Austin Sephanos' age, both 14, their lengthy experience on the water and their "will to live" in keeping the search going so long.

He expressed his "heartfelt condolences" and called the case "excruciating and gut-wrenching."

"I know no statistics will ease the pain," he said adding that hundreds of people searched many miles. "We were desperate to find Austin and Perry."

He said what made it "particularly more painful" for those searching is that many of them have children around the same ages, adding that he has a 13 and a 14-year-old.

The families released a statement thanking the Coast Guard for its efforts but said a private search will continue past Friday using volunteer pilots and aircraft.

The boys went missing last Friday and their capsized boat was found Sunday. The Coast Guard has searched waters from South Florida up through South Carolina without success.

The announcement brings to an end a massive sea-and-land search by the Coast Guard, which sent crews out night and day, scouring the Atlantic in hopes of finding the boys. They chased repeated reports of objects sighted in the water, and at times had the help of the Navy and other local agencies. But since the boat was found overturned, no useful clues turned up.

Photos from the search for two missing Florida teens:

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Missing Florida teen fishermen
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Coast Guard: Search for teens will be suspended at sunset
This combination made from photos provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows Perry Cohen, left, and Austin Stephanos, both 14 years old. Cohen and Stephanos were last seen Friday afternoon, July 24, 2015, in the Jupiter, Fla. area buying fuel for their 19-foot boat before embarking on a fishing trip. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP)
Candles with handwritten messages saying "Come Home Safe" and "Hold on Boys" were seen at Jupiter Inlet in Jupiter, Fla., Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015. After hundreds of rescue workers fanned out across a massive swath of the Atlantic for a full week, the Coast Guard's search for two teenage fishermen ended Friday. Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen have been missing since July 24, when they took a small boat out of the inlet. (Bruce R. Bennett/Palm Beach Post via AP)
A sign at Tequesta's First Presbyterian Church reads "Praying for Austin & Perry and their families" Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015, in Tequesta, Fla. After hundreds of rescue workers fanned out across a massive swath of the Atlantic for a full week, the Coast Guard's search for two teenage fishermen ended Friday. Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen have been missing since July 24. (Bruce R. Bennett/Palm Beach Post via AP)
A teak plaque topped by a clear lighthouse as a tribute to missing teens Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen is displayed at Jupiter Inlet in Jupiter, Fla., Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015. After hundreds of rescue workers fanned out across a massive swath of the Atlantic for a full week, the Coast Guard's search for two teenage fishermen ended Friday. Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen have been missing since July 24, when they took a small boat out of the inlet. (Bruce R. Bennett/Palm Beach Post via AP)
Volunteers take donations during a fundraiser for Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen at the Square Grouper in Jupiter, Fla., Friday, July 31, 2015. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)
Carolyn Vought, left, and Vickie Partlow hug during a fundraiser for Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen at the Square Grouper in Jupiter, Fla., Friday, July 31, 2015. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post via AP)
Joe Floyd, a relative of Austin Stephanos, reads a poem during a fundraiser to help continue the search for Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, at the Square Grouper, Friday, July 31, 2015 in Jupiter, Fla. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post via AP)
A banner hangs at the Castaways Marina with pictures of Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen. After 8 days of searching the ocean, the U.S. Coast Guard ended their search for the boys. Friends and relatives attended a fundraiser at the Square Grouper, Friday, July 31, 2015 in Jupiter, Fla. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post via AP)
Girls wear t-shirts they bought at to help fund the ongoing private search for Nick Cohen and Austin Stephanos who have been missing since they took their boat out of the Jupiter Inlet, Friday, during a fundraiser at Jumby Bay Island Grill, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Jupiter, Fla. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post via AP)
People fill the Jumby Bay Island Grill, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Jupiter, Fla., during a fundraiser to pay for private search efforts for Nick Cohen and Austin Stephanos who have been missing since they took their boat out of the Jupiter Inlet Friday. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post via AP)
Andrew Grubowski, 10, of Palm City, Fla., releases a lantern during a vigil for Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Stuart, Fla. The two teenagers have been missing since last Friday when they went out on a boat to go fishing from Tequesta, Fla. A search continues for the boys from the Atlantic waters off Daytona Beach, Florida, north through Savannah, Ga. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
People join hands during a vigil for Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Stuart, Fla. The teenagers have been missing since last Friday when they went out on a boat to go fishing from Tequesta, Fla. A search continues for the boys from the Atlantic waters off Daytona Beach, Florida, north through Savannah, Ga. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Camarda, left, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Nate Matthews scour the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Savannah, Ga., Tuesday, July 28, 2015, looking for two missing teenage boaters. Camarda and Matthews are crew members from Air Station Clearwater, Florida. (AP Photo/Tamara Lush)
In this image released by the U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer 1st Class Mike Crosby, right, scans the surface of the Atlantic Ocean through his binoculars while in the cockpit of a Coast Guard HC-130J, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, while searching for Florida teens Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, Tuesday, July 28, 2015. The Coast Guard pressed ahead with a fifth day of searches for the boys while their families coordinated air searches of their own. (Senior Chief Petty Officer Sarah B. Foster/U.S. Coast Guard via AP)
Nick Korniloff, second from right, talks with Tequesta police officers outside of his home Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Tequesta, Fla. Korniloff is the stepfather of Perry Cohen, one of two teenagers who have been missing since last Friday when they went out on a boat to go fishing from Tequesta, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Pictures of Perry Cohen, left, and Austin Stephanos, right, are on display at fundraiser at Jumby Bay Island Grill, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Jupiter, Fla., during a fundraiser to pay for private search efforts for Nick Cohen andAustin Stephanos who have been missing since they took their boat out of the Jupiter Inlet Friday. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post via AP)
Mary Kaye Hagenbuch, center, says a prayer for Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen during a prayer vigil at Jupiter Lighthouse Park, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Tequesta, Fla. The teenagers have been missing since last Friday when they went out on a boat to go fishing from Tequesta. A search continues for the boys from the Atlantic waters off Daytona Beach, Fla., north through Savannah, Ga. Also pictured are, from left, Hunter Wilkinson, Susan Wilkinson, Lauren Wilkinson, Susie Mydock, second from right, and Rob Hagenbuch (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post via AP)
Carly Black, center, mother of Austin Stephanos, one of the missing teenage fishermen, listens as the U.S. Coast Guard makes a statement outside of the homes of the two teenagers missing since a fishing trip last Friday, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Tequesta, Fla. The Coast Guard announced that the search for Nick Cohen and Austin Stephanos continues. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Heather Kenney, right, of Jensen Beach, Fla., stands with her son Xander, 11, during a vigil for Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Stuart, Fla. The two teenagers have been missing since last Friday when they went out on a boat to go fishing from Tequesta, Fla. A search continues for the boys from the Atlantic waters off Daytona Beach, Florida, north through Savannah, Ga. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lilly Folds lights paper lanterns during a candlelight vigil and paper balloon release at Jupiter Inlet Park, Monday, July 27, 2015, for teenagers Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen in Jupiter, Fla. The teens were last seen Friday afternoon buying fuel near Jupiter and were believed to have been heading toward the Bahamas. (Thomas Cordy/The Palm Beach Post via AP)
Two girls embrace during a vigil for Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Stuart, Fla. The teenagers have been missing since last Friday when they went out on a boat to go fishing from Tequesta, Fla. A search continues for the boys from the Atlantic waters off Daytona Beach, Florida, north through Savannah, Ga. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Julia Wolf, 16, left, and Jordan Harley, right, both of Stuart, Fla., hold candles during a vigil for Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Stuart, Fla. The two teenagers have been missing since last Friday when they went out on a boat to go fishing from Tequesta, Fla. A search continues for the boys from the Atlantic waters off Daytona Beach, Florida, north through Savannah, Ga. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Carl Hodges, of Stuart, Fla., right, reads a prayer during a vigil for Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Stuart, Fla. The teenagers have been missing since last Friday when they went out on a boat to go fishing from Tequesta, Fla. A search continues for the boys from the Atlantic waters off Daytona Beach, Florida, north through Savannah, Ga. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Map locates Jupiter, Fla., where two teens went missing on a fishing trip; 1c x 3 inches; 46.5 mm x 76 mm;
A man talks to a police officer outside the house of one of the two missing 14-year-old fishermen, Sunday, July 26, 2015, in Tequesta, Fla. The Coast Guard says a boat belonging to the boys has been found off Florida's Atlantic coast but neither boy was in or around the boat. Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos were last seen Friday in the Jupiter area buying fuel for their 19-foot boat. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A group of people hug before leaving the house of one of the two missing 14-year-old fishermen, Sunday, July 26, 2015, in Tequesta, Fla. The Coast Guard said a boat belonging to the boys has been found off Florida's Atlantic coast but neither boy was in or around the boat. Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos were last seen Friday in the Jupiter area buying fuel for their 19-foot boat. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A police car sits in the driveway of the house of one of the two missing 14-year-old fishermen, Sunday, July 26, 2015, in Tequesta, Fla. The Coast Guard said a boat belonging to the boys has been found off Florida's Atlantic coast but neither boy was in or around the boat. Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos were last seen Friday in the Jupiter area buying fuel for their 19-foot boat. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Caden Key, 14, of Jupiter, Fla., talks with the news media after fueling his jet ski at the JIB Club Marina, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Tequesta, Fla. Key knew of the two Florida teens who've been missing since Friday, July 24, who were last seen fueling their boat at this marina before heading out to fish. The search continues for the boys, from the Atlantic waters off Daytona Beach, Fla., north through Savannah, Ga. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Katie Kleinman, 14, of Jupiter, Fla., talks with the media as she and a friend stopped to fuel their jet ski at the JIB Club Marina, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Tequesta, Fla. Kleinman knew the two Florida teens who've been missing since Friday, July 24, who were last seen fueling their boat at this marina before heading out to fish. The search continues for the boys, from the Atlantic waters off Daytona Beach, Fla., north through Savannah, Ga. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
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The families had been holding out hope that items believed to have been on the boat, including a large cooler, might be spotted, or that the teens might even have clung to such an object in their struggle to stay alive. Even as hope dimmed, experts on survival said finding the teens alive was still possible. The Coast Guard continued its search, saying it would do so until officials no longer thought the boys could be rescued.

The saga began July 24, when the boys took Austin's 19-foot boat on what their families said was expected to be a fishing trip within the nearby Loxahatchee River and Intracoastal Waterway, where they were allowed to cruise without supervision. The boys fueled up at a local marina around 1:30 p.m. and set off and later calls to Austin's cellphone went unanswered. A line of summer storms moved through and when the boys still couldn't be reached, police were called.

The Coast Guard launched the search that would stretch on into an eighth day.

The boys grew up on the water in Tequesta, Florida, constantly boated and fished, worked at a tackle shop together and immersed themselves in a life on the ocean. Their families said they learned to swim before taking their first steps. They clung to faith in their boys' knowledge of the sea, even speculating they might have fashioned a raft and spear to keep them afloat and fed while adrift.

Many unknowns about the boys' status persisted throughout the ordeal, including whether they were wearing life jackets (one was found near the boat, but it wasn't clear how many were aboard) and whether they had food or water. The Coast Guard said it tried to err toward optimism in its own assessment of how long to press on, assuming a best-case outcome.

Along the way, some suggested the teens shouldn't have been allowed to boat on their own. Many others, though, voiced support, saying voyages with set boundaries are normal among boating families, and that the parents had no control over what ultimately happened.

Locals turned out night after night for vigils, poured money into a collection to fund private search efforts, used their own boats and planes and walked the coastline in pursuit of any little clue that might make a break. The efforts got an early boost from a high-profile neighbor of the families, NFL Hall of Famer Joe Namath, who helped garner publicity for the story.

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Sedensky reported from Tequesta, Florida.

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