Crew locates overturned hull of missing yacht, suspends search

The U.S. Coast Guard says the active search for the four-man crew of the missing yacht, Cheeki Rafiki, was suspended Friday at midnight after 25,000 square miles searched and 200 hours after the initial distress call.

A Coast Guard statement added that after relocating the hull of the yacht on Friday, search planners confirmed the boat’s life raft was secured in its storage space in the aft portion of the boat, indicating the crew had not been able to use it for emergency purposes.

A helicopter crew dispatched from a U.S. Navy warship located the overturned hull of the missing Cheeki Rafiki sailing vessel approximately 1,000 miles offshore Massachusetts, but still no signs of the four missing crew as of yet, the U.S. Coast Guard said Friday.

There was no evidence to suggest the vessel was different from the capsized boat already located by the containership MV MAERSK KURE during searches on penultimate Saturday.

A Coast Guard statement said the warship diverted to the location and deployed a boat crew and surface swimmer to assess the boat. The swimmer confirmed the name on the yacht 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, the Coast Guard said.

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

U.S. Coast Guard watchstanders received an alert at approximately 12:30am last Friday after two EPIRBS were activated from the 39-foot Cheeki Rafik, which was sailing to Britain from a sailing event in Antigua in the Caribbean.

The original search for the four missing crew was called off after 53 hours due to treacherous conditions, but resumed Tuesday following pressure from the crewmember’s families, the public and the British government.

The fate of the four men – captain Andrew Bridge, 21, Steve Warren, 52, Paul Goslin, 56, and James Male, 23 – remains unknown.

Friday’s hull sighting has not impacted search planning as teams continue to look for a bright-colored life raft as their search object.

The U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday that search operations would be suspended at midnight Friday unless new information or sightings suggested the crew would still be alive. None of the current developments indicate that to be the case, the Coast Guard said.

As a matter of policy, the U.S. Coast Guard does not perform salvage operations.

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