Update: The U.S. Coast Guard tweeted that the three missing Florida International University students have been found safe.
#BreakingNews 3 overdue FIU researchers in FL Everglades FOUND safe by Park Service searchers IVO Broad River.No medical concerns reported.— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) June 16, 2016
Yesterday three Florida International University students set out in a small center-console, Mako-style boat to collect water samples in Whitewater Bay, a huge expanse on the southwestern edge of Everglades National Park. They didn't make it back.
Last evening, the U.S. Coast Guard got a call that the students were overdue and sent an MH-65 rescue helicopter to scour the dark waters. They're still looking this morning and there's still been no word from the college students.
"Right now, the helicopter is back on
Details are still scarce about the students' identities. Barney declined to release any information, and FIU hasn't responded to calls and emails this morning. Channel 7 reports that the survey team included one American and two foreign students.
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"There's nothing that indicates that yet," Barney says. "We do have information that they've done this kind of work before. There was no report of any trouble while they were out."
Whitewater Bay can be a difficult place to navigate, though. It's a huge enclosed body of water dotted with tiny islands and surrounded by labyrinthine mangroves.
Here's the National Park Service's warning to would-be boaters:
Whitewater Bay is a large, open body of water that can prove challenging for some boaters. Strong winds and long distances can make this an arduous paddle for canoes and kayaks. Navigation can by tricky thanks to the monotony of the mangrove shoreline. Visitors are encouraged to use NOAA Chart #11433 to assist them in exploring this area.
We'll update this post when there's more information about the boaters or about the Coast Guard's search.