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Missing Virginia boaters focus of expansive Atlantic search

The search is on for a Virginia couple who have gone missing in the Atlantic Ocean after they set sail for the Azores Islands earlier this month.

The U.S. Coast Guard said Tuesday that Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones, both 65 and from Hampton, Virginia, departed on their 2,300 mile trip on June 8. 

On June 13, they told Ms. Jones’ daughter that the boat was damaged by heavy weather and they were returning to Virginia. At the time, they were about 460 miles from Virginia. 

The Coast Guard said Ms. Jones’ daughter contacted the agency on June 17 because she hadn’t heard from the boaters. The couple had no set return date, but Ms. Jones’ daughter was expecting them to be home by June 20.

“In situations like this, where there are so many unknowns, our coordination efforts need to cast a wide and intentional net,” Chief Petty Officer Brian Gainey, command duty officer, said in a news release. “We’re tracking cell phone and radio pings as we work with our counterparts in Bermuda to accurately determine the most intelligent search area for our air crews. It’s a lot of detective work, but it’s all in service to finding these two individuals and bringing them home to their families.”

Chief Petty Officer Connie Terrell told The Washington Post that the Coast Guard doesn’t have reason to believe the couple is in trouble. The investigation is focused on discovering the boaters’ whereabouts. 

Because the potential search area is so vast, a formal search hasn’t been initiated. Chief Terrell told The Post that the Coast Guard has contacted its counterparts as far north as New England and Canada, Bermuda to the south and the Azores closer to Europe.

That said, the Coast Guard did have two HC-130 Hercules crews fly over the area of the missing boaters. Boaters in that area received an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast to be on the lookout for the couple, as well. 



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