Missing NFL Boater Was Urged to Buy Tracking Device

Missing NFL player Marquis Cooper was told two days before his boat was lost in the Gulf of Mexico to purchase a tracking device that would’ve pointed out his location to the Coast Guard.

Cooper’s fishing buddy Clay Eavenson told the Oakland Raider that he should purchase an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) just two days before Cooper went missing with the Detroit Lions’ Corey Smith and two University of South Florida football players, the St. Petersburg Times reports.

Cooper admitted to Eavenson that the device was a good idea – but didn’t buy one before he set sail on Saturday. The devices transmit radio signals and GPS coordinates to rescue boats in times of trouble and could’ve led safety crews to the players’ location.

The Coast Guard never received a distress signal from the boat.

Relatives of the boat’s lone survivor, USF player Nick Schuyler, said that fellow passenger and college teammate Will Bleakley died in Schuyler’s arms in the frigid waters, the New York Post reports.

"Nick said he had hold of Will when he died," Will’s father, Bob Bleakley, told the Post.

The report conflicts with Schuyler’s original statement Wednesday - that the three other passengers floated to their deaths after their boat capsized.

Smith and Cooper abandoned their jackets after several hours, giving up the struggle, while Bleakley hung on to the boat’s hull with Schuyler until morning, when he left in a daze to swim toward a light in the distance, Schuyler originally told the Coast Guard after he was rescued.

"I think he was delusional to think he could swim someplace," Bob Bleakley told the Times of his son’s attempt to search for help.

Schuyler is suffering from hypothermia and extreme weakness, which authorities said could plague his thinking processes and confuse his timeline of what happened on the boat. The doctor who treated Schuyler after the rescue said his account would be mostly accurate, but could suffer inconsistencies thanks to lingering effects from his time in the Gulf.

"I don’t think he’ll be able to tell you exactly what hour it was…but I think the recollection that he has is pretty good," Dr. Mark Rumbak said.

Schuyler spent more than 36 hours floating in the water. Another 8 or 10 in the water, and he could have died, doctors said Thursday.

Bleakley selflessly dived beneath the boat as it capsized Saturday, grabbing life jackets for Smith, Cooper and Schuyler. Bleakley gave the jackets to his teammates and held onto a cushion to stay afloat, Schuyler told friends of Bleakley’s.

The Coast Guard called off the search for the players Tuesday after combing more than 20,000 square feet of ocean off of Clearwater, Fla. The families of the three men still lost at sea launched a private search Wednesday for the players’ private remains – but the hunt has become a "subdued" and grim effort.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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