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Statement from U.S. Coast Guard regarding Cheeki Rafiki search

by US Coast Guard Capt. Anthony Popiel on 22 May 2014
Cheeki Rafiki, 40ft Beneteau yacht believed to have lost its keel and capsized in the Atlantic. The search for crew continues . ..
The below statement regarding the search for the crew of the Cheeki Rafiki is from U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Anthony Popiel, Chief of Response for the first Coast Guard District. It was issued at 2 p.m., May 21, 2014

'Good Afternoon, my name is Capt. Anthony Popiel. I am the Chief of Response for the first Coast Guard District and responsible for coordinating the overall search efforts for the crew of the Cheeki Rafiki. Having spoken regularly with the families of these four men, I know this continues to be a very difficult time for them. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with them.

'At the request of the British Government, the Coast Guard resumed search efforts at 7:38 a.m., yesterday.

'Once we were able to get assets to the search area, we completed eight searches yesterday and overnight. Search conditions were excellent with winds less than 10 knots and seas three to five feet. Four searches were flown by C-130 aircraft from the United States and Canada and four searches were completed by commercial merchant vessels who volunteered to assist. Unfortunately, we have had no sightings of a life raft, persons in the water, the sailboat or debris.

'Today, search conditions continue to be favorable with winds less than 10 knots and seas less than six feet. We have two C-130 aircraft from the United States and two merchant vessels on scene actively searching right now. We had a British C-130 that completed its search effort earlier today, and the two C-130’s from Canada will be returning to the search area later today. The Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous is proceeding to the area with an expected arrival on Friday, and a U.S. Navy warship is expected to arrive in the search area tomorrow evening. In total, efforts since resuming the search have exceeded 9,000 square miles of ocean.

'Again, this is a large scale, international search and we are saturating a very large and very remote area of the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, we have had no sightings so far today. To put this into context, our aircrews are trained to look for any smaller items such as debris or equipment from the boat, as well as larger items, specifically a life raft in this case. We also use radar in our search efforts. Last night, the air crew reported identifying fishing gear on the radar, an indication of just how effective our equipment can be.

'No decisions have been made regarding suspension of the search. Our focus is on continued search planning, and I can confirm now that we are making plans to have search assets on scene tomorrow.

'Overall, I have been impressed by and pleased with the international cooperation and support from our partners in Canada and England.

'I have been in this profession for 27 years, and I can tell you that we treat every search like we’re looking for a member of our own family. Again, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the four families during this difficult time.

'Thank you for taking the time to hear from me. Our goal is to provide as much information as we can to the media and the public during cases like this and we'll continue to issue press releases on a routine basis. As Lt. Klinker mentioned, we're still in a very active and dynamic search, so thank you for your time. I'll direct all remaining questions to our public affairs staff for the time being.'

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