Friends, Family Stay Optimistic In Search For Missing Teens

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) –  Amid a search for two Jupiter teens who vanished Friday after going on a fishing trip, their family and friends are staying optimistic.

“Still trying to stay positive. Everyone still has to stay positive,” said the teen’s friend Alivia Smallegange.

So far the Coast Guard has flown 118 searches.  Their focus is moving toward South Carolina, about a hundred miles off-shore.

Meantime, friends prayed at a waterside vigil on day five of the search for Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, releasing lanterns over the ocean in Stuart.  “We lift up our prayers tonight,” said the preacher leading the prayer,  “that the lord will will the boys to come back healthy and be strong again, be live and vibrant.”

Two 14-year olds headed out on a boat Friday afternoon. Their boat was found capsized on Sunday, miles off the coast of Daytona Beach.

“It’s just scary knowing they’re out there but I believe that they’ll come back and they’ll be there,” said one of the teen’s friends Megan Benz.

For friends and family, it’s been a trying day but they all remain hopeful.  They’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars to mount a private search, in cooperation with the Coast Guard.  It’s grown to more than 20 planes.  Included in that search is Austin’s father Blu Stephanos, he’s a pilot. He said looking for his own son is exhausting and emotional. “You talk about a needle in a haystack!” he said, “that’s what we’re looking at. It’s probably the worst feeling I have ever had in my life. But I’m out there. I am trying.  I’m putting every effort I got.”

Coast Guard officers said given the water conditions, the boys can survive four to five days.  Tuesday marked day five.

Both mothers were on NBC’s Today Show and remain optimistic.

Perry’s mom Pamela Cohen said despite their young age, the two have been boating all their lives, that piloting a boat for them is like farm teens who drive tractors. She said they are excellent on the water and look out for one another.

“They know each other backwards and forwards, are friends. They are completely loyal to each other and I know they are working together to do whatever they need to do,” said Cohen.

A big question in all this is where were the boys heading?

Perry’s family said they were supposed to remain in inland waters.

A friend said Austin posted a Snapchat picture as they left saying,”peace out Jup” short for Jupiter.

Friends said they talked about going to the Bahamas, but they apparently said that a lot.

“He’s done it a handful of times, ‘Bahamas bound’, ‘peace out Jup’ and then he just went off shore and came back in a couple of hours and was just fine. He’s never actually tried to go,” said a friend of one of the teens, Matthew Levallee.

Being out on the water Friday would have been a rough day. The weather was bad. Friends said another post on Snapchat had them worried.

“I looked at the Snapchat and it was towards the water a little bit then at the end of the video, he pointed it at the inlet and you could just see the storm coming in super fast,” said another friend of the teen, Peyton Schoor. “They said ‘we’re [expletive] and there was big storm coming right at them.”

Also on NBC’s Today Show, Austin’s mom Carly Black said as far as she knew the boys were fishing.

“I don’t believe they were headed for the Bahamas. I believe they were going out off shore to fish and something happened. The bad weather rolled in,” said Black.

The weather was bad Friday, but Black says the boys are survivors.

“If anyone can do it, they can. I truly believe that,” said Black.

To feel closer to her son, she’s been sending him text messages, hoping for a miracle, that somehow he can read them.

“Just tell him I love him, I need him and I want him home and I know he’s out there just staying strong, just any kinds of words of encouragement that I can, it just makes me feel good to at least text him and it says it’s sent so I’m hoping and praying,” said Black.

The families have set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for the private airplanes, boat fuel and any other sources used in the search. For those interested in donating, click here.

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