Coast Guard suspends active search for Cheeki Rafiki

Published on May 23rd, 2014

Boston, MA (May 23, 2014) – The Coast Guard suspended its search at 10:00 pm on Friday (May 23, 2014) for the missing crew members of the Beneteau First 40.7 Cheeki Rafiki who reported distress approximately 1,000 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The crew was delivering the boat to the UK after it had competed in 2014 Antigua Sailing Week on April 26-May 2. The crew reported a leak on Thursday (May 15), and were diverting to the Azores, but contact was lost on Friday. A container ship reported on Saturday an upturned sail boat that fit the description, but was missing its keel.

At the request of the British Government, the Coast Guard resumed search efforts at 7:38 am, Tuesday, having suspending its original 4,000-square-mile search on Sunday after the sailors had not been located.

After an additional 21,000 square miles of searches, the U.S. Coast Guard suspended the second search. The time of suspension was midnight at the search area.

Based on the extreme sea conditions at the time of distress, but assuming best-case emergency equipment, the estimated survival time past the time of distress was approximately 20 hours. Searches were suspended nearly 200 hours after the time of distress.

Watchstanders from the 1st Coast Guard District command center worked around the clock to develop search patterns using weather and currents information.

Multiple crews from military branches across the world saturated the search area offshore with no sign of survivors. Commercial vessels also assisted heavily in the search.

A U.S. Navy warship helicopter crew located the overturned hull of the Cheeki Rafiki 1,000 miles offshore Massachusetts and within the U.S. Coast Guard’s search area, Friday.

The warship diverted to the location and deployed a boat crew and surface swimmer to assess the boat.

The surface swimmer confirmed the name on the ship was Cheeki Rafiki and went in the water to investigate further. The swimmer determined the boat’s cabin was flooded and windows were shattered, contributing to the complete flooding inside.

The swimmer also knocked on the hull and reached an arm’s length below the waterline with no results. Surface swimmers are not trained divers and do not perform sub-surface operations.

Navy crews observed that the sailing vessel’s keel was broken off, causing a breech in the hull.

The smallboat crew and surface swimmer captured underwater imagery clearly identifying the raft in its storage space, indicating the crew had not been able to use it for emergency purposes. The image was shared with and acknowledged by the families.

Aircraft and vessels involved in the search were:

a U.S. Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous, homeported in Cape May, New Jersey
a 106th Rescue Wing U.S. Air National Guard crew from Gabranski, New York
a U.S. Navy warship, homeported in Norfolk, Virginia
a U.S. Navy MH-60 helicopter embarked aboard the U.S. Navy warship
a U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft from Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia
a Canadian military C-130 aircraft
a Royal Air Force HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
the 672-foot motor vessel Premium Do Brasil
the 700-foot motor vessel Amapola
the 751-foot motor vessel AM Hamburg
the 551-foor motor vessel Independent Accord
the 600-foot motor vessel Teesta Spirit
the 652-foot motor vessel Georgia Highway
the 1,000-foot motor vessel Maersk Kure
the 600-foot motor vessel Bow Flora
the 477-foot motor vessel Chem Venus

“It is with sincere compassion for the families of these four men that our thoughts and prayers are with them all during this difficult time,” said Capt. Anthony Popiel, 1st U.S. Coast Guard District Chief of Response. “The U.S. Coast Guard is always hopeful, and makes the utmost efforts to find and rescue those in peril. We have the greatest appreciation for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force for working with us alongside the militaries of Canada and the United Kingdom during this massive search effort. It is only after our deepest consideration that we suspend our active search efforts.”

Source: US Coast Guard

Note: Times are EDT

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