Family of missing boater off Anna Maria Island waits for answers

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The family of a missing boater is coping with the painful reality that he may never be found.

Jose Antonio Cruz was on board a 28-foot boat with two other friends for a day of fishing on Friday. However, the day took a tragic turn when the boat capsized and sank about 35 miles off the coast of Anna Maria Island.

The two friends were found clinging onto coolers for three hours before they were rescued, but Cruz was never found.

“We need answers,” Saimy Mata said. “All of the family is waiting for those answers.”

The family and friends of Cruz are staying strong.

On Saturday morning, the search was suspended after the USCG determined Cruz was most likely not on the surface of the water.

“Every day that passes and every hour that passes is more difficult,” Mata said.

The U.S. Coast Guard sent News Channel 8 the following statement:

The USCG conducts active search and rescue for people, vessels, and aircraft presumed to be missing on the surface of the water. It is not mandated nor equipped for underwater salvage or recovery. The decision to suspend the search was not made lightly and occurred after exhaustive efforts over the course of the day utilizing planes, helicopters, boats, and a ship to search an area spanning 159 square nautical miles.

“The Coast Guard Cutter Shrike, Coast Guard Stations Cortez and St. Petersburg, Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations Jacksonville were involved in the initial search.

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