Search Suspended for Missing Boaters Off Groton

The search has been suspended for two friends who went missing after sailing off the coast of Connecticut Sunday and Coast Guard officials found the boat the two were traveling near Greenport, New York.

Spencer Mugford, 21, and Sofia McKenna, 20, were last seen off the coast of Avery Point in Groton on Snapchat at 2 a.m. Sunday, state police Trooper Kelly Grant said, and the search began after the two were overdue to return.

They were in a boat that had been donated to the UConn campus at Avery Point, Andrew Ely, of the U.S. Coast Guard, said during a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Spencer is a UConn student, according to Keith Williams, of Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Environmental Conservation Police.

The Coast Guard, along with state and local agencies, searched 2,025 square-miles for 71 hours before suspending the search.

U.S. Coast Guard Commander Andrew Ely said search crews found a 14-foot white and blue sailboat with no mast on Truman Beach, near Greenport, New York on Monday afternoon. Ely said officials believe this is the vessel the pair was on when they went missing. The boat was empty when it was found.

“So the waters here are in the low 50s, and if a person’s immersed in waters like this they probably have less than 20 hours of what we would consider survival time if they don’t have a life jacket with them,” Cmdr. Andrew Ely, chief of response, Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound said.

“Suspending a search for missing or overdue boaters is never an easy decision to make after an extensive search,” Ely said. “We search for every person as if we are searching for one of our own. We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Spencer Mugford and Sophia McKenna.”

Officials initially believed Mugford and McKenna were on a two-person paddleboard because of a Snapchat Sofia’s mother, Michelle McKenna, received. It was only after officials saw another image that they were able to determine it was a small sailing hull.

“I’m praying they’re still alive,” Michelle McKenna, said.

“Miracles do happen, maybe somebody’s already found them. I don’t know. But we got to keep faith,” she said.

Mugford was reported to be wearing a blue tank top and salmon colored shorts.

A helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod in Massachusetts and a 45-foot Response Boat from Coast Guard Station New London launched and were part of the search. The Coast Guard brought in a fixed-wing plane to search. State police and DEEP also had boats in the water assisting with the search.

Anyone with information is requested to please contact the Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound command center at 203-468-4401.

Coast Guard officials encourage everyone to wear a lifejacket when on the water. Ely also suggested bringing a marine radio rather than a cell phone because cell service is not guaranteed out on the water and phones might not work properly when wet.

Editor’s note: Officials initially thought the missing boaters were on a two-person paddleboard, but later determined their vessel was actually a small sailboat. The story above has been updated to reflect that information.

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