Virginia Sailors Who Were Reported Missing Found Safe After Getting Struck by Lightning

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Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Evelyn Jones
Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Evelyn Jones

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A Virginia couple has confirmed they are safe after they were reported missing while sailing to Portugal.

The U.S. Coast Guard said in a press release on Friday that Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones reached out to its command center in Virginia to let them know they're safe and on their way back to Hampton. At the time they were 80 miles east of Chincoteague, Virginia.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, Nikopoulos and Jones were struck by lightning while facing harsh weather during their trip. They managed to get a spare sail before turning around.

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"The two mariners are not in distress and have not requested Coast Guard assistance. All concerned parties have been informed of the mariners' safety," the U.S. Coast Guard said.

"We are extremely happy to learn Yanni and Dale are found and are safe," added James Cifers, operations unit watchstander in the Fifth District Command Center, per the release. "It is truly wonderful the pair will be reunited with their friends and family soon."

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On Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard announced its search for the couple, who left Hampton, Virginia for Azores, Portugal on June 8.  They were supposed to return on Monday, but did not, sparking the Coast Guard's search for them.

At the time, no one had heard from them since they contacted Jones' daughter on June 13 and told her they had run into bad weather that damaged their sailboat and planned to turn around. They had traveled roughly 460 miles from the city when they spoke with Jones's daughter.

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Jones' daughter alerted the Coast Guard Fifth District command center on June 17, stating "that she hadn't received any communication from her mother since they departed and was concerned for their well-being." Jones' daughter said they were expected to return on Monday, per the Coast Guard's initial release.

After they went missing two HC-130 Hercules flights via the Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City searched for Jones and Nikopoulos. Nearby boaters also received an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast from the Fifth Coast Guard District Command Center.