ST. PETE BEACH — The Coast Guard has suspended its search Thursday for two men missing near the Pass-a-Grille channel entrance since Tuesday.
The search was suspended at 7:41 p.m.
Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg received a report Tuesday evening from the captain of the Jaguar, a 71-foot yacht, stating Andrew Dillman, 27, from New York, and Jie Luo, 21, from China, were missing from the boat.
Fifteen college students chartered the yacht for the day. When the yacht anchored at Shell Key, five students, including Luo, reportedly jumped from the boat to swim. The current pulled the students from the boat, and all but Luo were able to make it back to the boat. Dillman, a crew member aboard the yacht, jumped in to rescue Luo and was also separated from the boat.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Jie Luo and Andrew Dillman," said Capt. Holly Najarian, Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg commander. "Suspending a search is the most difficult decision I have to make in my position, and despite our best efforts, we were unable to reunite Andrew and Jie with their families."
Crews from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission conducted 39 searches totaling 80 aircraft and surface hours and covering more than 1,577 square miles – an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.
The incident is currently under investigation.