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2 NFL Players Missing Off Clearwater

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Old 03-01-2009, 08:43 PM
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CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP)—Detroit Lions defensive end Corey Smith and Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper were among four boaters missing Sunday off Florida’s Gulf Coast, the Coast Guard and Smith’s agent said.

Smith and Cooper were on a 21-foot vessel that left Clearwater Pass on Saturday morning for a fishing trip and did not return as expected, the Coast Guard said Sunday. Crews used a helicopter and a 47-foot motor-life boat to search a 750-square mile area west of Clearwater Pass on Sunday.

Smith owned the boat and he and Cooper had been on fishing trips before, said Ron Del Duca, Smith’s agent. The pair had been teammates on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004.

Smith, 29, had 30 tackles, including three sacks, and an interception in 12 games last season for the winless Lions. Smith, who is 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, also played for the San Francisco 49ers and played college ball at North Carolina State.

Del Duca called Smith one of the “good guys” of the league and was planning to start visiting teams as a free agent this week. He said he has spoken with Smith’s family and is also in touch with Coast Guard officials.

“They’ve assured me that they’re deploying all available resources to look for these guys and get them back,” he said.

Cooper, 26, has played sparingly in five seasons with the Buccaneers, Seahawks, Jaguars, Steelers and Raiders. Cooper, who is 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, played college ball at Washington.

Rick Davis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tampa, said seas were about 2 to 4 feet Saturday morning and increased to 3 to 5 feet in the afternoon. Late Saturday night, a small craft advisory was issued, when winds were around 20 knots and seas were up to 7 feet or more. There were no thunderstorms in the area.

Davis said the water was “extremely rough and choppy” on Sunday afternoon.

Lions spokesman Bill Keenist said he had heard Smith was aboard a missing boat but hadn’t been able to confirm it.

“We’re aware of the media reports,” Keenist said Sunday afternoon. “We’re trying to find out what we can.”
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Old 03-02-2009, 06:59 AM
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Hope they are found safe and sound. I had two friends thats didnt return from a fishing trip here in sarasota. It was 3 to 5ft seas They hd to much mllet on board and the boat cap sides and they got traped in there nets. My uncle was on that boat but he switch to another about a hour before the accident happend so he could get on befor dusk. You never want to hear somebody being left out at sea.. Everytime i hear about some one out there it leaves a pit in my stomach.
 
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Old 03-02-2009, 09:40 AM
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You never realize how expansive the ocean is until something like this happens. I was on the Carnival ship coming back from the Bahamas over the holidays that lost a crew member overboard. Even with the coast guard planes on site within 20 mins and boats within 40 i believe he was never found.

Hope they turn up, Lions can't afford to lose anyone...
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by fantastixvoyage View Post
You never realize how expansive the ocean is until something like this happens. I was on the Carnival ship coming back from the Bahamas over the holidays that lost a crew member overboard. Even with the coast guard planes on site within 20 mins and boats within 40 i believe he was never found.

Hope they turn up, Lions can't afford to lose anyone...
Smith is a free agent but didn't think it was a situation to mock a football team. Met him multiple times and hung out with him. He's a really cool and nice guy! Hope they find all of them!!
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:38 AM
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My Dad would go out 5-10 miles in the Gulf in a 16' Carolina skiff. I told him he was nuts too.
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:40 AM
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I ran from my house in Palm Harbor up to Hooters in New Port Richey on Saturday and it was windy and choppy. If they left the ramp early, it was not bad but picked up significantly throught the day. Coming home around 3:30 it was blowing 25-30 with a 2-3' chop along the coast. It would have been very rough offshore - not 21' weather.
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Old 03-02-2009, 11:54 AM
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21' boat with over 1000lbs of people on it???? Not something I would want to be on going 50+ miles out. I hope this turns out good. My thoughts and prayers are with the families. I read a report that said 14' seas on Sat night.........Now that is scary.
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Old 03-02-2009, 12:22 PM
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Default May be i survivor

There may be one survivor

They just reported on the Tampa Bay news that the Coast Guard spotted an overturned vessel with one person hanging on to it, but no confirmation as to if it is the boat in question.
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Old 03-02-2009, 12:40 PM
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The news said it was a boston wahler ( unsinkible ) ?????

and i met a guy on the boat ramp in sarasota with 18 footer and he told me he goaes out about 50+ miles ,,,,,,CRAZY !


I also hope they be found safe.

I'm sure the Whaler is floating somewhere. I sell Whalers and I tell all my customers just because it's unsinkable dosen't mean you are. Got to use your head when boating. should wear a mustang vest or something especially 50+ miles out!
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Old 03-02-2009, 12:46 PM
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Coast Guard finds one man clinging to boat
By Emily Nipps and Brant James, Times Staff Writers
Posted: Mar 02, 2009 09:56 AM


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The missing boaters were on a 21-foot Everglades Center Consoles fishing boat of a make and model similar to the one pictured here.
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12:27: Nick Schuyler is the boater who has been found, according to the cousin of Marquis Cooper, Ray Sanchez, who is at the Clearwater boat ramp where the men were last seen and has been getting updates from family. He was found near Egmont Key alive and clinging to a boat, Sanchez said.

The Coast Guard cutter Tornado found the boat and dispatched a smaller boat to rescue him.

12:10 p.m.: A man has been found clinging to a boat about 30 miles west of the Tampa Bay area, Bay News 9 has reported.

CLEARWATER — The Coast Guard has searched over 16,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico and found no sign of four missing boaters or their vessel, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said this morning.

The survival of the boaters — former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Marquis Cooper and Corey Smith and former University of South Florida football players Will Bleakley and Nick Schuyler — is the main question more than 48 hours since they set out on a fishing trip aboard a 21-foot boat. The Coast Guard has several crews still searching the area west of Clearwater Pass.

Clearwater's Seminole Boat Ramp, where the four men departed from early Saturday, was quiet this morning after a day of fret and panic Sunday. The families of the missing boaters were gone after pacing and praying at the site for much of Sunday.

Chris Mayes, 19, whose family owns Jaxson's Bait House near the boat ramp, said it was clear by sundown Sunday that something was wrong.

On Saturday morning people were "itching to get out" on the first day of perfect weekend weather of the new year, Mayes said.

By 6 a.m., all of the boat ramps were booked and people were complaining about the crowded parking lot, Mayes said. But by 2 p.m., boaters were scrambling to get back, spooked by the winds and choppy waters.

At an offshore location about 50 miles west of the Tampa Bay area on Saturday afternoon, waves were in the 4- to 6-foot range and "the winds were around 10 to 15 knots and some gusts up to 20 knots, which still makes it uncomfortable for most boaters," National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Barron said.

But the weather turned awful late Saturday and early Sunday as a front passed through.

"Waves increased from 4 to 6 feet to about 10 to 15," Barron said. By about 7 a.m. Sunday the offshore winds "increased to 30 to 40 knots."

By sundown Saturday, the ramp parking lot was empty except for a lone GMC truck, belonging to Cooper. That's the truck the missing four boaters arrived in. A one-day parking pass was still on the windshield.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Sondra-Kay Kneen said the search will carry on throughout the day, and she could not say if and when the search would end. Vessels and planes searching the gulf have covered 16,000 square miles, she said. The search area stretches from Cedar Key in Levy County to Boca Grande in Lee County.

Word of the men's disappearance spread quickly throughout the Tampa Bay area, and especially among those who regularly frequent the same waters.

Mike Miller owns a diving charter business and was also out in the gulf the on Saturday. He wondered how the men could have stayed in the water, knowing Saturday's weather forecast of strong winds from the arriving cold front.

"Anything over 10 knots, that's really dicey," Miller said. "The forecast Friday night I saw said 10 to 20 knots, 4- to 6-foot seas. So if just one of those four guys would have read the report, they would have said, 'We're not going 50 miles offshore in a 20-foot boat.' "

Meanwhile, friends and family of the four men are awaiting updates.

Bleakley, 25, grew up in Citrus County and played football at Crystal River High School. The school's faculty members are being kept abreast of the situation via e-mail and hoping for good news.

"Everyone is sitting back and waiting for good news," athletic director Tony Stukes said. "Obviously, there is concern for Will's safety, and concern for his family. It's a tight-knit community."

Bleakley, a 2002 graduate, was a standout baseball and football player. As a senior, he helped lead the school to the state baseball final four, which was played at Tampa's Legends Field.

Bleakley's parents are well known in the community and are part of the chain crew at Crystal River home football games, Stukes said.

Bleakley and 24-year-old Schuyler live in Tampa. Cooper, who turns 27 next week, is a linebacker with the Oakland Raiders, and 29-year-old Smith is a free agent defensive end who most recently played for the Detroit Lions. Both Cooper and Smith own homes in the Tampa Bay area.

Cooper owns the boat the men left on Saturday, and friends and family described him as an experienced boater who had life jackets and flares onboard.

The Lions and Raiders teams each released statements expressing concern for all of the boat's passengers.

"We are closely monitoring the situation and are in the process of gathering more information," a press release from the Raiders said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the passengers, their families and those involved in the search efforts."

The temperature in the gulf was in the mid 50s early this morning, according to the National Weather Service.

Staff writers Keith Niebuhr and Curtis Krueger contributed to this report. Emily Nipps can be reached at [email protected] and (727) 893-8452.



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Comments on this articleby nick Mar 02, 2009 12:32 PM
No, there are no islands to speak of. But all of these guys look like they are in good shape. If they were not drinking, they would have the endurance to last quite some time with floatation devices until they are seen. Keep them in our prayers.
by MIke Mar 02, 2009 12:30 PM
No ther are no Islands off Cleawater. 50 miles offshore is dicey for 30ft plus boats in the kind of Weather that was forecast. They are most likley dead already but Ill give them one xtra day since they are athletes. 10-12 will swamp a 21' with 1 wav
by pg Mar 02, 2009 12:29 PM
dee, really?? that is not a flats boat, get your facts straight, and no there aren't any islands out in the Gulf, it is all open water....
by steve Mar 02, 2009 12:29 PM
Mike, fifty miles offshore is out of sight of land and probably out of VHF radio range too. No islands out there. Only an inexperienced boater would be out there last weekend. The boat will be found, sooner or later. The men?who knows? Pray for them.
by Buck Mar 02, 2009 12:19 PM
a 21'cc is a smallish boat, but def not a flats boat. Something major would have to go wrong. That's a tough little boat and hard to sink.
by Concerned Citizen Mar 02, 2009 12:18 PM
Thank you, Coast Guard, for the wonderful job you are doing. I hope the missing boaters come home safely.
by Capt Bob Mar 02, 2009 12:17 PM
No one should take a small craft offshore more than a few miles unless they are equipt with an EPIRB; redundant radios; redundant compass; and, offshore life jackets. Weather info is available from many sources including some very detailed websites.
by Alan Mar 02, 2009 12:16 PM
The 21' Everglades has a V-hull, so it is not a flats boat. OTOH, it's best suited for near-shore coastal waters, within VHF-radio range. Does Cooper's boat carry a VHF? An EPIRB would be just as good - both cheap investments.
by Alan Mar 02, 2009 12:14 PM
The 21' Everglades has a V-hull, so it is not a flats boat. OTOH, it's best suited for near-shore coastal waters, within VHF-radio range. Does Cooper's boat carry a VHF?
by Anti-Mike Mar 02, 2009 12:13 PM
Yeah, there is, right next to the post office in the middle of the gulf where the fishermen send their wives mail.
by Travis McGee Mar 02, 2009 12:05 PM
Mike: There are no islands in that part of the Gulf beyond the barrier sandspits that form the beaches. Conditions can get hairy pretty fast, out there. I assume that these guys didn't check the marine weather forecast.
by UNCONSTITUTIONAL Mar 02, 2009 11:49 AM
My heart oes out to their families. That boat is way too sall to be in the ocean. You should have a gps and VHF radio for help maybee even a loran ? This is senceless. All this oney and manpower because they were ill equiped, very sad.
by P Mar 02, 2009 11:48 AM
dee, really?? that is not a flats boat, get your facts straight and no there aren't any islands out in the gulf, it's all open water.......
by chet Mar 02, 2009 11:46 AM
We have a hurricane warning system. Maybe the Coast Guard should have a warning system for small boats traveling offshore.
by bev Mar 02, 2009 11:40 AM
I really believe they will be found. I think they are safe and somehow has lost their directions. I am Praying that the searches receive a strong instinct within and this will help lead them to where they are.
by Mike Mar 02, 2009 11:16 AM
I'm scared for these guys. I'm not a boater, and I don't really fish either. Can anyone tell me if there are any islands or something that these guys could have went to to ride out the weather? Is there anything like that in the area they were in??
by Reeves Mar 02, 2009 11:09 AM
Sending the 'blessed' vibe...please be found and well.
by M Mar 02, 2009 10:41 AM
We're all praying for their safety.
by dee Mar 02, 2009 10:07 AM
Reports are that this group was on a 21' Everglades CC...a flats boat! These guys may have been avid fishermen, but they weren't experienced. No on with experience takes a flats boat 50 miles out with small craft advisories up. Wish them luck.
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