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RECOVERY MISSION: Update on search for teenager who disappeared swimming in Sanibel

Sanibel Fire and Rescue were leading coordinated search efforts at the same time as they urged holiday swimmers to exercise caution at Blind Pass Beach.
Posted at 7:38 PM, Jul 02, 2024

UPDATE: JULY 4 12:40 PM
The Sanibel Police Department just gave an update on the missing teenager. Chief William Dalton says the search has now turned to a recovery mission.

"It's been 48 hours since the swimmer who entered the water at Blind Pass has gone missing. The Sanibel Police Department and other local agency partners have moved into a search and recovery operation.

The thoughts of the entire Sanibel community are with the family and friends of the young man during this difficult time."

Chief William Dalton
Sanibel Police Department

UPDATE: JULY 3, 4:15 PM
Four boats spent Wednesday afternoon in the water off of Blind Pass Beach, as crews continued their search for a missing teenage boy.

Search for missing teen off coast of Sanibel
Boats search for missing teenage boy off the coast of Sanibel on Wednesday

Investigators say he was last seen more than 24 hours ago. He was with two other teenagers who struggled to swim in the strong current. The others got to the shore with some help.

"As time progresses, the search area will increase because of tides and things like that," Sanibel Police Chief, Daniel Dalton said. "But right now, we're concentrating on this area right here."

Chief Dalton said he considers this a search and rescue mission.

Watch video of crews searching for the teenager on Wednesday.

VO AS SANIBEL BLIND PASS SWIMMERS FOLO

UPDATE: JULY 3, 8:25 AM
New pictures show the search for the missing teenager, about 20 hours after he went missing in the water off of Blind Pass Beach.

The Sanibel Police Chief says US Coast Guard boats are searching in the water Wednesday morning.

Sanibel Swimmer Search
US Coast Guard boats search for teenager who went missing while he was swimming on a Sanibel beach on Tuesday

And a Lee County Sheriff's Office helicopter searched in the air.

Sanibel Swimmer Search
Lee County Sheriff's Office Helicopter searching for a teenager who went missing while swimming off of Blind Pass Beach

UPDATE: JULY 3, 8:05 AM
The Sanibel Police Department just gave an update on the search for a missing teenager at Blind Pass Beach. Police Chief William Dalton said crews are on the water and in the air again Wednesday morning and they still consider this a search and rescue mission.

Chief Dalton said the US Coast Guard did a shoreline search with a helicopter overnight, but did not find the boy.

At this time crews are still searching the same area, but as time goes on, police say the search area will increase.

Chief Dalton said investigators have been in contact with the teen's family.

JULY 2 REPORT
Rescue boats and helicopters searched the waters around Blind Pass Beach on Sanibel Tuesday, looking for a teenager who disappeared while swimming.

FOX 4’s Austin Schargorodski rushed there as soon as he found out crews were being called in to search. - Sanibel Fire and Rescue told him three teenagers swam out to the sandbar, and one of them got swept away by a strong current.

Search and rescue boats looking for the missing swimmer in the waters at Blind Pass on Captiva.
Search and rescue boats looking for the missing swimmer in the waters at Blind Pass on Captiva.

Standing on Blind Pass Bridge, you could see how quickly the water was flowing off shore to where the rescue boats were searching for the swimmer.

Captiva Island's Fire Chief, Jeff Pawul, said rescue crews got there just before noon to respond to a call about three teenagers struggling in the water.

“We got reports of two males and one female being swept out by the current. A rescue swimmer reached the scene and was able to rescue one male and one female. A third swimmer remains unaccounted for, and multiple fire boats, LCSO, Sheriff's Department, and Coast Guard are conducting a coordinated search,” Pawul explained.

Jeff Pawul, Captiva Island's Fire Chief.
Jeff Pawul, Captiva Island's Fire Chief.

You could see signs warning swimmers of the dangerous current as you walk onto Blind Pass Beach.

Max and Sarah Berkovits vacation here from New York, and told me they’ve experienced first-hand how strong the current can be.

“We were out on a rubber raft and the current pulled us out. We tried to get back in staying on the raft but we couldn’t manage it,” said the Berkovits’.

Max and Sarah Berkovits, vacationers from New York.
Max and Sarah Berkovits, vacationers from New York.

Luckily, the Berkovits’ said a fisherman swam out and rescued them.

“When there’s a tide change at a pass like this, the tides can run pretty quick whether that’s in or out - a lot of people get caught up in those and get swept offshore,” said Pawul.

Heading into the 4th of July holiday, Pawul said he knows a lot of people might swim at Blind Pass, so he emphasizes being careful.

Helicopter circling over Blind Pass looking for the missing swimmer.
Helicopter circling over Blind Pass looking for the missing swimmer.

“Try and stay close to shore, use life preservers if you need to. Make sure people know who’s out in the water,” said Pawul.

The Sanibel Police Department said the search would continue into the evening with the U.S. Coast Guard using air assets like helicopters.