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Law Enforcement Begins Search of Men Who Went Missing in the Gulf of Mexico

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A Fishing Boat
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Law enforcement agencies have commenced a comprehensive search for the group of men who went missing in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. A distress call was received, signaling that a fishing vessel carrying four men had encountered trouble and vanished from radar screens. 

The City of Venice reported that the men departed for a boating trip around 8 a.m. on Saturday, February 17, 2024. However, the group who embarked on a fishing trip failed to return home as scheduled.

Since the news of the disappearance, the Coast Guard units, local law enforcement, and maritime rescue services have combined efforts to find the missing persons. At approximately 8 a.m. on Sunday, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) contacted the Venice Police Department. 

The police were instructed to investigate the Marina Park Boat Ramp near the Venice Train Depot for a vehicle and boat trailer the group had abandoned. The city confirmed that the vehicle and trailer were found at the park.

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City officials released the names of the four missing men as Ruben Mora Sr., aged 54, from Port Charlotte, along with Angel Hernandez Munoz, aged 38, Julio Cesar Cordero Briones, aged 37, and Vargas Parra, aged 35, all hailing from North Port.

According to the Police Department, the men boarded a 1995 23-foot white SportCraft boat. However, the release did not specify any safety and emergency equipment onboard the vessel.

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The search effort involved the VPD’s Marine Patrol, SCSCO, the U.S. Coast Guard, Sarasota Police, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Their search extends from Stump Pass to Longboat Pass in hopes of locating the missing individuals. On Monday, the team had covered over 4,600 square miles in the intense search.

However, in a recent update, the U.S. Coast Guard has suspended the search pending new information. Despite extensive search operations over several days, no sign of the missing fishermen or their vessel was found. The decision to suspend the search was made after carefully considering all available information and resources.

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Captain Andy Leisenring of the Venice Police Department stated at a news conference that the water conditions were described as “not too rough” that morning. However, he noted that the weather had worsened by the afternoon, with heavy fog enveloping the area.

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“Going into overnight and into Sunday, the winds picked up, the seas picked up, of course, it’s been raining most of that time,” Captain Leisenring said, noting that weather conditions remained rough on Monday. “It’s not very safe to be out there for a small vessel,” he said.

Captain Leisenring stated that the authorities had been informed that the men were experienced fishermen. However, he noted that they did not leave behind a float plan, which provides a detailed overview of a boat excursion.

“They did not tell their family members exactly where they were going, and so that does hinder our search efforts a little bit,” he said. “We have to estimate a starting point and adjust from there for the search.” 

While the search has been suspended, the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the four fishermen remains ongoing. The U.S. Coast Guard and a Venice Police Department detective have refused to provide further information regarding this decision.

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