Saturday morning, Corey Smith, defensive end for the Detroit Lions, and Marquis Cooper, Oakland Raiders linebacker, left Clearwater Pass, Florida, in a 21-foot boat for a day of fishing. They did not return.
The Coast Guard reported that the boat, which also had aboard Will Bleakley and Nick Schuyler, both former University of South Florida players, never came back Saturday night, as scheduled. As a result, they've launched a search, using a helicopter and an 87-foot ship to comb a 750-square mile area west of Clearwater Pass.
Coast Guard Capt. Timothy M. Close said the weather early Saturday had been fair, but worsened toward the evening as a front moved in. The National Weather Service said seas were about 2 to 4 feet Saturday morning and increased to 3 to 5 feet in the afternoon. Late Saturday night, a small craft advisory was issued, when winds were around 20 knots and seas were up to 7 feet or more. There were no thunderstorms in the area.Conditions like that can be disastrous for a boat of Cooper's size. The weather was not expected to turn rough, but many boaters who returned from sea Saturday evening said they were surprised how bad things got.
There was no SOS signal from the boat, before or after they experienced the rough weather (which has also made the search process difficult). "That's not to say they didn't send one out," Close said. "We didn't receive anything."
UPDATE: The Coast Guard has found the boat with Nick Schuyler clinging to it.