Search for missing Florida boaters becomes recovery mission

Published On: Jan 01 2013 09:36:52 PM EST

Authorities in Central Florida continue to search for two men who vanished while boating on Lake Jesup.

OVIEDO, Fla. -

Authorities in Seminole County announced Monday the search for two boaters on Lake Jesup would switch from a rescue to a recovery mission.

At a news conference shortly after 4 p.m., officials said they don't believe 26-year-old Charlie Jackson and 30-year-old Jason Cobb will be found alive. Officials said searchers would no longer use land resources and would only be using boats.

Using helicopters and boats, rescue teams spent much of Sunday searching for Jackson and Cobb.

Officials said the men had gone to get some food and drinks Friday night and set out onto the alligator-infested lake just after midnight Saturday.  Family members initially said the pair had attended a bachelor's party prior to getting in the boat. Authorities said the pair may have been ejected from their boat.

"Is it possible they're still alive?  Yes.  Is it probable?  I don't know," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Jeff Hudson said.  "Conditions are very cold.  Hypothermia is a concern any time you have an event like this in the winter time when the water temperatures are dropped, especially with the cold air and wind."

"They can survive out there.  If anybody can, they can," a family friend said.

Searchers found a shoe and cigarettes on Sunday.

"The fact that they found one of the shoes, I think, was hopeful that maybe there was an opportunity that they were able to make it to land and trying to get back," said family friend Leween Jones, who described both men as "free spirits."

Crews returned to the lake early Monday to search again.

Jackson's 15-foot boat was found Saturday in some cattails after relatives reported the men missing.

Authorities believe the men, who did not have their cellphones with them, may have been ejected from the boat.  It contained two life jackets, two paddles and eight unopened cans of beer.

The lake has a large alligator population, but wildlife officials said it's too cold for them to be very active.


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