KEY WEST, Fla. (KFDX/WFLA) — Officials with the United States Coast Guard said they have called off their search for a diver who went missing near Key West.
WFLA first reported on Wednesday, Aug. 2, that Thomas Faulkenberry, 44, was last seen diving in the area of the Vandenburg shipwreck, a popular spot for divers that has been transformed into an artificial reef.
In a news release on Monday, the Coast Guard announced they have suspended their search for Faulkenberry, who was reported missing by crewmembers of the Dream Cat vessel on Wednesday at approximately 3:30 p.m.
Crews searched around 4,300 square miles of the ocean, which is the estimated size of Connecticut, according to the Coast Guard. The search lasted a combined total of 152 hours.
“This was a tragic accident,” said Lt. Christopher Papas, inspections division chief for Sector Key West. “Diving is an inherently dangerous activity. Mr. Faulkenberry’s passion for the sea is well remembered by the dive community here in the Keys and my deepest condolences are with his family at this difficult time.”
The U.S. Navy, Florida Army National Guard, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission assisted the Coast Guard with their search.
As sources close to the situation told Nexstar’s KFDX, Faulkenberry once resided in the Wichita Falls area and was a little league baseball coach.
Mary Ayers, Faulkenberry’s former spouse and mother to his four sons, said during a conference call on Monday morning, officials with the U.S. Coast Guard said they’ve officially called off the search for Faulkenberry. Officials later confirmed they have suspended their search.
“The boys’ dad is presumed dead, though they haven’t declared it,” Ayers said Monday morning. “The investigation is ongoing as to what exactly happened.”
A GoFundMe has been set up by members of the Faulkenberry family, with all money raised set to be given to Faulkenberry’s four sons, who are all between ages 15 and 21. The fundraiser’s description states he was an experienced diver who served nearly two decades with the U.S. Coast Guard.