The family of two teenage boys who went missing off the Florida coast in July says they do not consider a search dog’s findings, linking two life jackets found along the Georgia coast to their boat, to be conclusive.
In a joint statement released Thursday, the families of Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, both 14, said even though a dog did match the scent, the items did not have identifiable markings like tags or stenciling that would confirm a link to the boat.
“The canine field evaluation was made by a single dog and its handler. We do not consider the results to be conclusive,” the statement read.
According to Dr. Robert Bowie with DEEMI Search and Rescue, a search and rescue dog positively matched the orange life vests retrieved from a sandbar near Savannah to Stephanos and Cohen.
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However, Bowie was quick to point out that the discovery is only a preliminary indicator. Further testing will need to be done to confirm a positive match, he said.
The teens were last seen July 24 after heading out on a fishing trip in the Jupiter Inlet.
The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for the young fishermen on July 31 after an eight-day search spanning from Jupiter to Wilmington, North Carolina. The boys’ families called off their privately-led search on Aug. 8.
The teens’ capsized boat was found about 65 miles east of Daytona Beach on July 26, two days after they disappeared. The boat went missing when a marine salvage company the Coast Guard hired to bring it to shore didn’t secure the vessel.