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Couple, charter crew missing off Costa Rica

AUG. 9 - The U.S. Coast Guard last weekend officially suspended its search for an American couple and three crewmembers that went missing more than a week ago while on a fishing trip off Costa Rica.

Mark and Laura Vockery, of Ashland, Ky., chartered the 28-foot sportfishing vessel, Kingfisher, at about 9 a.m. July 29 and were expected to return later that afternoon. Also on board were three Costa Rican crewmembers. According to the Coast Guard, the boat was last seen at approximately 12:30 p.m. about 20 miles from Costa Rica.

“This is very mysterious,” says Lt. Jason Jessup of the Coast Guard in Alameda, Calif. “Our search absolutely saturated the area and we felt that if they were there, we would have found them. Unfortunately, we found no clues whatsoever in regards to the boat or the whereabouts of its passengers.”

Weather conditions on July 29 were “nice,” Jessup says, with two- to four-foot swells, good visibility and light winds. These conditions would most likely not cause the boat to capsize, Jessup says.

“If the boat sank you’d expect to find debris,” he says. “Also, the boat’s radio was broken and there wasn’t any safety equipment on board, which doesn’t help matters. They might have had life jackets, but we’re not sure. The situation is suspicious but we can’t speculate as to what might have happened.”

During its search, the Coast Guard deployed two C-130 Hercules airplanes, a helicopter and the cutter Morgenthau. Search-and-rescue units from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama, as well as various merchant ships and good Samaritan vessels and aircraft performed their own searches.

“This is really frustrating because we all want to see a positive outcome for this,” Jessup says.

— Jason Fell