(CNN) — Search teams looking for a father and his three teenage children who disappeared off southwest Florida amid treacherous seas have found a debris field that appears linked to the family’s sailboat, Coast Guard Capt. Gregory Case said Wednesday.
Case said searchers were encouraged by the absence of two kayaks in the debris field. The family had been towing them behind the sailboat, he said.
But later Wednesday, the Coast Guard tweeted that a yellow kayak and a green one thought to belong to the family had been found near the debris field.
The family, which had been living on the 29-foot sailboat in Sarasota for about a year, was sailing to Fort Myers early Sunday when they hit a thunderstorm and rough seas. The boat, which was equipped with an outboard motor, was “not in the best of shape,” and the family was sailing to Fort Myers to work on the vessel, Case said.
When the storm hit, the father, Ace Kimberly, 45, called his brother and asked him to send along some weather reports. Kimberly reported 6-foot seas off the coastline of Englewood, about 30 miles south of Sarasota, a Coast Guard statement said.
“And that’s the last they heard of him,” Case said.
The brother reported Kimberly and his children — Roger, 13, Donny, 15, and Becky, 17 — missing Tuesday. The Coast Guard tracked the voyage, which is about 75 miles via land, and by midmorning Wednesday, an airplane crew discovered the debris field after completing eight search patterns.
It was found about 38 miles off Sanibel Island, a few miles off of Fort Myers’ coast.
The debris field included water jugs, a tarp, tennis shoes, a basketball and a propane tank, Case said.
“These items did indeed correlate to his brother’s vessel,” he said, calling it a “dire finding.”
And while rescuers also found six life jackets, there were seven on the boat, the Coast Guard captain said. That’s a “heartening” sign, he said.
The Coast Guard received no distress call from the vessel, Case said.
He described Kimberly’s brothers and wife as frightened but hopeful.
“They are terrified, as you can imagine. They’re all feeling what we’re all feeling — anxious, upset and hoping for the best,” he said. “We are doing everything we can and throwing everything we can at this search at this time.”