Rescuers are using computer models to try to find three missing boaters, including two NFL players, off the Florida coast Tuesday, the Coast Guard said.
The search has passed 48 hours. The boaters went missing Saturday after embarking on a fishing trip. Still missing early Tuesday were Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper and NFL free agent Corey Smith, who played for the Detroit Lions for the past three seasons. Also missing was William Bleakley, a former University of South Florida football player. Former University of South Florida football player Nick Schuyler was found Monday afternoon clinging to a small overturned fishing boat. He was about 39 miles west of Egmont Key, Florida, sitting atop the overturned 21-foot boat and wearing a life jacket. His mother, Marcia, was the first to see him in the hospital, she told WTSP-TV, a CNN affiliate in Tampa-St. Petersburg. “He told me, ‘Mom, I kept saying you’re not gonna go to my funeral.’ He said that’s what kept him hanging on,” she recounted. Schuyler told his Coast Guard rescuers that the men’s boat was anchored Saturday evening when waves overturned it, said Coast Guard Capt. Timothy M. Close.
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Schuyler told the rescuers that all four men clung to the boat for a time but then became separated, Close said. Rescuers flew a C-130 plane and sent out three boats and two helicopters equipped with thermal imaging technology in the hopes of finding the missing men. The seas had calmed a little bit, which may help the rescue effort, a Coast Guard spokesman said. Based on what Schuyler told the Coast Guard, officials were able to narrow the search from 16,000 square miles. Watch Schuyler being moved on a stretcher » Schuyler last saw his three friends at 2 a.m. Monday, his father told WTSP on Monday. The three were wearing life vests. See photos of rescue » The four boaters embarked in the single-engine boat from the Seminole Boat Ramp near Clearwater Pass about 6:30 a.m. Saturday, the Coast Guard said. The search was launched early Sunday after friends and relatives realized the four had not returned. In video of Monday’s rescue, Schuyler appeared to be conscious and talking as he was removed from a Coast Guard helicopter. While he initially was able to answer a few questions to help with the search, officials decided to wait until he was treated for hypothermia before talking with him again, Coast Guard Petty Officer Robert Simpson said. On Monday evening, Schuyler was in serious condition at Tampa General Hospital. Cooper was aware of Sunday’s weather forecast and for that reason picked Saturday for the trip, his wife, Rebekah, told WTSP on Sunday. “Fishing is his first love, it always has been,” she said, adding, “I have a lot of faith in him out there.” Watch relatives, friends express concern for missing boaters » Smith and Cooper were teammates with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for part of the 2004 season when Cooper was a rookie, according to the NFL’s Web site.
Smith, who entered the league with Tampa Bay in 2002, went on to play for the Washington Redskins before moving to the Lions for the 2006 season. Cooper has played for six teams in his five-season career. Bleakley lettered from 2004 to 2006 as a tight end for the University of South Florida, and Schuyler was a walk-on defensive end in 2006, but he never played in a game, according to a spokesman for the university’s athletics department.