VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Coast Guard has suspended their 11-day search for an 82-year-old boater who went missing while attempting to sail from Maryland to Florida.
The Coast Guard says Hugh Blankenship was last seen leaving Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach on Oct. 23 aboard the 29-foot sailing vessel Marta.
Blankenship’s family member notified watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads that she had lost contact with him on Oct. 24.
Coast Guard and Navy crews searched 353,464 square nautical miles for Blankenship and his vessel. They also repeatedly conducted radio callouts and contacted over 295 marinas from Virginia to Florida.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the friends and family of Hugh Blankenship,” said Rear Adm. Keith Smith, commander of the 5th Coast Guard district in a press release. “Suspending a search is one of the most difficult decisions we make as a life-saving service.”
“We would like to thank every single person who aided in the search for Mr. Blankenship,” said Capt. Brendan Kelly, the senior officer in charge of Coast Guard search and rescue efforts for the case via press release. “We greatly appreciate everyone who shared our social media post, which reached nearly 154,000 people, some of whom responded with additional information and assisted with the search.
“We also want to remind mariners of the importance of filing a float plan and equipping their vessels with multiple communication devices, especially a fixed VHF-FM marine radio. Additionally, we strongly encourage mariners to carry cell phones and emergency position indicating radio beacons that have been properly registered with NOAA whenever they get underway.”
Anyone with new information regarding this case should contact the Coast Guard 5th District command center at (757) 398-6390.