July 13 (UPI) — A lobster boat carrying 13 fishermen has gone missing off Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast and several countries have joined in the search to find the missing crew.
The vessel, the Miss Johanna Betsey, was last heard from on June 29 when it departed the port city of Bluefields. The boat’s captain appeared to have been trying to get a head start on the official lobster season, which wasn’t scheduled to begin until July 1. The day after the boat departed, weather conditions worsened and officials prohibited boats from leaving port until further notice.
By that time, however, the Johanna Betsey was already out to sea.
The last recorded signal from the boat was at 10 p.m. on June 29, with a location about 11 nautical miles off Nicaragua’s Little Corn Island.
The vessel was first reported as missing on July 3. Nicaraguan naval and army forces began a search south of Bluefields covering more than 800 nautical miles with 85 sailors and eight fast boats, Diario Metro reported.
Since then, the search has moved north and grown in scope with help from Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras and the United States.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua, the U.S. Southern Command directed a U.S. Coast Guard HC-130 plane to assist in the international search coordination.
“The U.S. government is pleased to help in the search and rescue of the missing boat and its crew and hope that they will soon be brought to safety,” said Laura F. Dogu, U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua.
But after 10 days of searching, the only evidence of the crew that has been found are a few objects believed to have come from the boat, including baskets, rope and a drum of oil.
Though the search continues, Alvaro Rios, a sailor for more than 25 years who helped in the search for five days, isn’t confident the fishermen are alive.
“We had hope pf finding them, but from my experience, the boat sank because there’s no indication of the buoy,” he told El Nuevo Diario. “In those cases, the boats capsize, float for a time, and then sink.”
But the families of the lost sailors are clinging onto hope. Noticias de Bluefields reported on Facebook that friends and family members of the crew are still gathering to pray and sing hymns, hoping for their safe return.