Pilot says he saw 1 of 2 missing teen fishermen

Published: Updated:
U.S. Coast Guard / MGN

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – A pilot who was part of a massive search to find two missing teen fishermen told investigators he’s positive he saw one floating on debris two days after their boat capsized.

And in another development, a recovered iPhone belonging to one of the boys will be sent to Apple to see if any data can be retrieved.

According to a report released this week, Bobby Smith told Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators reconstructing the disappearance of Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos that he was flying off the Georgia coast on July 26 at about 1,000 feet when he saw two white pieces of debris tied together with an orange life jacket.

He went to 200 feet and saw a person waving his hands over his head. He said he climbed to 1,500 feet so he could radio controllers and when he went back down he could no longer find the person. The Coast Guard went to the area and also could not find anything.

The area is in the Gulf Stream about 300 miles north of Jupiter, Florida, where the 14-year-old boys disappeared July 24 when their 19-foot boat capsized during a storm.

A Norwegian freighter recovered the boys’ boat last month off Bermuda.

The report also says that a woman told investigators that she saw a boat with two boys aboard broken down about 200 to 300 yards off the Jupiter coast during the storm. Her phone records show she called the Coast Guard three times, but she said it appeared the boys got the boat started and headed off before any help arrived.

Investigators did a re-creation with the woman using a similar-sized boat and people in clear weather, and she was unable to identify characteristics about the occupants, including their gender.

Neither boy’s body was ever found, but Austin’s iPhone 6 was recovered from the boat found by the freighter. Families of both teens agreed Friday to allow Apple to analyze the phone recovered eight months after their disappearance.

Perry’s mother had sued Austin’s parents and the wildlife commission to have the phone examined by an impartial third party after the commission released it to the Stephanos family.

According to local media reports, the phone was described in court as rusted and deteriorating because it had been submerged in water.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Gregory Keyser ordered Friday for the iPhone 6 to be shipped overnight to Apple. Any data retrieved from the phone will be provided to the court.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.