MAYPORT, Fla. - U.S. Coast Guard investigators say it's one of the most mysterious cases they've seen in years: a body found floating among debris of from 50-foot Hatteras boat about 22 miles east of Jacksonville. Slowly they've pieced together that apparently four men were on that boat -- three Venezuelan men and a hired American boat captain who remains unidentified.
Around 4:30 p.m. Feb. 24, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission aircraft looking for right whales spotted the debris -- including 10 life jackets -- and alerted the Coast Guard.
Coast Guard crews searched for 56 hours, covering roughly 2,875-square-nautical-miles, but only found one victim: 49-year-old Guillermo Losada.
The Coast Guard now says the debris was from the boat called "On the Weigh" that was recently purchased in Myrtle Beach, S.C., by a Venezuelan named Chong Kang Lum Valles. Valles apparently asked three other men to help him deliver the boat to Aruba: Fellow Venezuelans Guillermo Losada and Victor Caridad and an American to captain the boat known only as "Larry" (pictured above in surveillance photo taken Feb. 22 at Charleston City Marina).
It's believed the boat was making several port stops along the Southeast coast along the way, and it remains a mystery what caused the boat to break apart.
Coast Guard investigators have turned to forensic techniques such as taking paint samples from ships coming into port in Jacksonville to try to figure out what happened. They are also looking back at electronic records of what ships were coming in and out of port about that time.
"it should be technically possible to go back to the day in question and look at the logs and essentially see who has passed in that general area on that day," said Doug Miller, who sells the equipment that tracks ships.
The Coast Guard is also asking for the public's help in solving this mystery at sea.
"The public's been great providing information so far -- that's how we learned that there were additional men on board," said Lt. Grant Johnson. "Any information they can provide about the possible American captain ... that will help us piece together what may have happened on the water."
The Coast Guard asks anyone with information about a boat captain named Larry to call 904-564-7511.
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