Life jackets found in private search for missing 14-year-old boaters

(Photo: ABC News)

A Florida helicopter company found two orange life jackets off of a sandbar in Savannah, Georgia. The life jackets could have been worn by missing teen boaters Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos.

Heli Aviation shared a video on Facebook of Tuesday’s discovery, writing, “Considering that the life vest recovery was during low tide it was only accessible by air.”

The two 14-year-olds went missing at sea on July 24 when they left the Florida coast in a 19-foot Sea Craft boat. By July 31, the U.S. Coast Guard had searched almost 49,000 square nautical miles.

The company noted that it couldn’t immediately confirm that the jackets belonged to Cohen and Stephanos, but a search group based in Maine called DEEMI has sent search dogs to sniff out the Georgia coast in response to the find, an official told ABC News.

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DEEMI has been involved in the private search for the teens since the Coast Guard called off the official search.

Search dogs from DEEMI are working to connect the scent from the jackets to the missing teens, though the nonprofit has also not confirmed the two life jackets belonged to Cohen and Stephanos. The official said that the group is using technology that snaps and analyzes high-definition photos to canvas search areas.

Heli Aviation announced Tuesday in a Facebook post that it is no longer assisting in the private search-and-rescue efforts. The company wrote that it had received too much negative publicity after being accused of keeping funds raised for the search, which company officials said they donated to a family account.

A GoFundMe page has been set up and nearly $500,000 have been raised to help provide aircraft and boat fuel for the private search.

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