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VIDEO: Search for missing towboat captain called off

The Coast Guard suspended its search Wednesday for a 34-year-old towboat operator who went missing Tuesday morning after his boat’s EPIRB activated near Great Egg Harbor, N.J.

Missing is David McAuliffe, the lead captain for Sea Tow Atlantic City, who holds a 50-ton Coast Guard license.

The 45-foot Sea Tow boat Cape Hatteras left Absecon Inlet about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday en route to Great Egg Harbor, John McAuliffe, who runs the operation, told the Coast Guard.

Three hours later, Coast Guard watchstanders received an EPIRB alert from the towboat. McAuliffe did not respond to cellphone or radio calls.

The Coast Guard searched more than 400 square miles for 65 combined asset hours. A raft was found, but the boat and McAuliffe remain missing.

Click play for a tearful plea from McAuliffe’s wife, Lynsey.

“We are deeply saddened by the difficult decision to suspend our search efforts for Capt. David McAuliffe,” Capt. Kathy Moore, the commander of Sector Delaware Bay, said in a statement. “This is a man who made a career of helping others on the water, often placing himself in harm’s way to do so. Our deepest sympathies are with his family, friends and fellow mariners.”

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McAuliffe’s boat reportedly had equipment that included two survival suits and two life rafts. The search was conducted beyond what the Coast Guard termed as the expected survival time for the situation.

The assessment included the possibility that McAuliffe was wearing a survival suit and factored in the water temperature, which was 48 degrees Tuesday and 50 on Wednesday, Coast Guard officials told

The daylong search involved five MH-65 Dolphin helicopters from Air Station Atlantic City, four 45-foot response boats from Station Cape May, two 47-foot Motor Lifeboats from Station Atlantic City and the 87-foot cutter Finback, as well as the New Jersey State Police, local police, Sea Tow crews and good Samaritans.

Click here for a report when the search was under way.