MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Shortly after the Coast Guard announced they would be suspending their search for a missing diver, a body was found at the dive site where the man first vanished.
Loved ones confirmed on Rob Stewart’s website for his documentary, Sharkwater, that his body was found.
“Rob has been found, peacefully in the ocean. There are no words. We are so deeply grateful to everyone who helped search, and happy that Rob passed while doing what he loved. We are working on how best to honour his incredible work. The Stewart family kindly asks that they are given some private time to grieve. Thank you everyone,” the statement read.
The 37-year-old, a filmmaker whose life was dedicated to saving sharks, vanished Tuesday off Islamorada while looking for sharks for his latest conservation documentary project.
He was diving in 230 feet of water and it was going well.
“He dove three times on this wreck, and on his third dive he surfaced, gave the OK sign to the boat,” explained Julie Anderson.
Friends said the people on the boat were attending to someone else who was having a medical problem when Rob Stewart disappeared.
They wonder if he was taken away by the current.
The U.S. Coast was contacted and they led an all-out search for him.
On Friday, the search intensified on the water and from the air.
“People have rallied around us and we want them, I can’t explain how desperately I want to seeing my son again,” said Brian Stewart, Rob’s father.
His family remained hopeful during the search because he was an experienced diver.
“If he’s floating in the water, he will still survive. He’s a very strong swimmer and excellent scuba diver, we’re still hopeful,” said Sandy Stewart, Rob’s mother.
Rob Stewart’s sister Alexandra spoke with CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana Friday morning about her brother.
“He’s an extraordinary person and for all of the work he’s done to date, he really deserves our best effort at trying to help him so that he can continue to champion the cause of ocean and conservation,” she said.
She also asked for help to find him.
“We have two new needs for our search that starts at daylight. One is experienced Florida Keys boat operators to run shallow water boats or airboats along the shoreline and similarly, people who can’t get on a boat, we need beach walkers for people to walk the shores of Marathon, Duck Key, Conch Key and Long Key,” she said.
Stewart’s friend, Tyler MacLeod, has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the rescue effort with a goal of $230,000.
Searchers held out hope he could survived because of the type of gear he was wearing and his experience.
Mike Schram, another lifelong friend, helped to coordinate a private search.
“He’s a survivor. He knows exactly what to do. I have full confidence he’s out there waiting for us to find him,” Schram said.
Volunteers, many strangers, are coming from all over to help.
Xynn Tii came from Miami with three drones.
“We’re going to try to get as close as possible to mangroves and stuff inland and tight brush where boats and planes can’t get low enough to get in,” Tii explained.
Mark Bostwick, who lives in the Keys, has never met Rob, but heard his family needed help. He showed up in his boat ready to do what he can.
“The way our country is right now, this just makes you feel good that people pull together,” he said.
But the Coast Guard made the call to end the search after nearly 72 hours.
“The decision to suspend the search is very difficult and not made lightly. Our hearts go out to Mr. Stewart’s family, especially his parents,” said Coast Guard Capt. Jeffery Janszen.
About an hour after the announcement, a body was recovered in the same spot Rob Stewart went missing.
Key Largo Fire Rescue personnel made the discovery.
“They were diving near the spot where he was last seen using an underwater operated vessell. The were able to locate a body underwater,” explained Nyx Cangemi.
The body was taken to the Coast Guard station in Islamorada.
“We are going to be looking a litany of issues to try and get to the heart of what happened to get the family the answers they desperately need,” Cangemi said.