The family of two teenage boys who went missing off the Florida coast in July says they do not consider a search dog’s findings, linking two life jackets found along the Georgia coast to their boat, to be conclusive.
In a joint statement released Thursday, the families of Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, both 14, said even though a dog did match the scent, the items did not have identifiable markings like tags or stenciling that would confirm a link to the boat.
“The canine field evaluation was made by a single dog and its handler. We do not consider the results to be conclusive,” the statement read.
According to Dr. Robert Bowie with DEEMI Search and Rescue, a search and rescue dog positively matched the orange life vests retrieved from a sandbar near Savannah to Stephanos and Cohen.
However, Bowie was quick to point out that the discovery is only a preliminary indicator. Further testing will need to be done to confirm a positive match, he said.
The teens were last seen July 24 after heading out on a fishing trip in the Jupiter Inlet.
The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for the young fishermen on July 31 after an eight-day search spanning from Jupiter to Wilmington, North Carolina. The boys’ families called off their privately-led search on Aug. 8.
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The teens’ capsized boat was found about 65 miles east of Daytona Beach on July 26, two days after they disappeared. The boat went missing when a marine salvage company the Coast Guard hired to bring it to shore didn’t secure the vessel.