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Skunk Works 03-01-09 01:02 PM

NFL Players Lions' Smith, Raiders' Cooper missing at Sea
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA (TICKER) —The Coast Guard is conducting a search in the Gulf of Mexico for a fishing boat with two NFL players on board.

According to Clearwater’s ABC Action News affiliate, a 21-foot fishing boat left the area at approximately 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and did not return at its scheduled time later in the day.

Citing a call from the Coast Guard dispatcher, the television station reported that two of the passengers are Detroit Lions defensive end Corey Smith and Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper.

The boat, which had four people on board, was reported missing at about 1:30 a.m. Officials stated that gulf waters were “extremely choppy” and believe that the boat is “in distress.”

NFL players missing at sea - NFL - Yahoo! Sports
The Coast Guard is searching for up to four missing boaters, including two active NFL players near St. Petersburg, Fla.

Among the missing is Detroit defensive end Corey Smith and Oakland linebacker Marquis Cooper. Also on board is Nick Skyler. A press release sent out by the Coast Guard also said there is a possible fourth person on board. Agents for both Smith and Cooper confirmed that their clients are among the missing.

"We are in contact with the Coast guard and Corey's family has been informed," Smith's agent Ron Del Duca said. "Corey is one of the good guys out there. We're just waiting for more information and hoping for the best."

Troy Asmus, one of Cooper's agents, said he has been in contact with the NFL and that the league is aware of the situation.

"I have been in contact with the Coast Guard and they are continuing to work hard to find everyone," Asmus said. "We are hoping and praying for the best."

Cooper and Smith played together in Tampa Bay in 2004.

In its press release, the Coast Guard Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg, Fla., received a call at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday that the party did not return from their fishing trip. In the release, the Coast Guard said four boaters left at about 6:30 a.m. Saturday, from the Seminole Boat Ramp in Clearwater Pass, in a 21-foot center console boat.

The Coast Guard search remains active. Crews used a helicopter and a 47-foot motor-life boat to search a 750-square mile area west of Clearwater Pass on Sunday.

Asmus said he has been in touch with Coast Guard officials and he was told there were 14-foot waves and 45 MPH winds in the waters overnight where his party was fishing. Asmus said he was told that the party's truck and trailer remains at the dock where the boat launched.

Dasher 03-01-09 04:07 PM

Agent: 2 NFL players among Fla. missing boaters
By CHRISTINE ARMARIO, Associated Press Writer
23 minutes ago

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP)—Detroit Lions defensive end Corey Smith and Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper were among four boaters missing Sunday off Florida’s Gulf Coast, the Coast Guard and Smith’s agent said.

Smith and Cooper were on a 21-foot vessel that left Clearwater Pass for a fishing trip Saturday morning and did not return as expected, the Coast Guard said Sunday. Crews used a helicopter and a 47-foot boat to search a 750-square mile area west of Clearwater Pass on Sunday.

Cooper owns the boat and he and Smith have been on fishing trips before, said Ron Del Duca, Smith’s agent. The pair had been teammates on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004. The Coast Guard said two others were aboard, identified as Will Bleakley and Nick Schuyler. The St. Petersburg Times on its Web site identified them as former University of South Florida players. Calls to the school by The Associated Press were not immediately returned.

Coast Guard Capt. Timothy M. Close said the weather early Saturday had been fair, but worsened toward the evening as a front still battering the area moved in. The National Weather Service said seas were about 2 to 4 feet Saturday morning and increased to 3 to 5 feet in the afternoon. Late Saturday night, a small craft advisory was issued, when winds were around 20 knots and seas were up to 7 feet or more. There were no thunderstorms in the area.

Close said the men were traveling in a boat manufactured by Everglades. At least one of the men was an experienced boater, and relatives provided the Coast Guard with GPS coordinates from previous fishing expeditions.

Close said there was no communication with the men even before the weather started to pick up. They were expected home by early evening. No sign of them or the boat has been spotted.

Poor weather conditions could be dangerous for a boat the size of Cooper’s.

“A 21-foot boat is a relatively small vessel to be 50 miles off shore in bad weather conditions, certainly the current weather conditions,” Close said.

The Coast Guard search was mainly taking place by air, and was hampered by the poor weather, Close said. He said there are 14-foot seas offshore and wind gusts of up to 30 mph. Water depth in the area where they are searching ranges from 20 to 50 feet.

Close said there was no sign yet that the men sent a distress signal.

“That’s not to say they didn’t send one out,” he said. “We didn’t receive anything.”

Smith, 29, had 30 tackles, including three sacks, and an interception in 12 games last season for the winless Lions. Smith, who is 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, also played for the San Francisco 49ers and played college ball at North Carolina State. He lives in Richmond, Va.

Del Duca called Smith one of the “good guys” of the league and was planning to start visiting teams as a free agent this week. He said he has spoken with Smith’s family and is also in touch with Coast Guard officials.

“They’ve assured me that they’re deploying all available resources to look for these guys and get them back,” he said.

Cooper, 26, has played five seasons with the Buccaneers, Seahawks, Jaguars, Steelers and Raiders. He appeared in 26 games with the Buccaneers in 2004 and 2005, recording 30 tackles. He has played sparingly since as he has bounced between teams, appearing in 13 games and recording 10 tackles. Cooper, who is 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, played college ball at Washington. His hometown is Mesa, Ariz., and his father Bruce is a prominent sportscaster for KPNX-TV in Phoenix.

Rick Davis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tampa, said seas were about 2 to 4 feet Saturday morning and increased to 3 to 5 feet in the afternoon. Late Saturday night, a small craft advisory was issued, when winds were around 20 knots and seas were up to 7 feet or more. There were no thunderstorms in the area.

Davis said the water was “extremely rough and choppy” on Sunday afternoon.

Lions spokesman Bill Keenist and Raiders senior executive John Hererra said the teams are monitoring reports.

Associated Press Writer Sarah Larimer in Miami contributed to this report.

Agent: 2 NFL players among Fla. missing boaters - NFL - Yahoo! Sports

Skunk Works 03-02-09 01:00 PM

One survivor found, so far
Boater found, NFL players still missing off Florida, guard says - CNN.com
CLEARWATER, Florida (CNN) -- One of four boaters who went missing off the Florida coast Saturday has been found, according to the Coast Guard. Three others, including two NFL players, are still missing.

Boater Nick Schuyler, identified by WFLA, is seen here on a stretcher Monday after his rescue.

1 of 2 An overturned vessel was discovered Monday afternoon with former University of South Florida football player Nick Schuyler clinging to it, according to Coast Guard Petty Official James Harless.

Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper and NFL free agent Corey Smith, who played for the Detroit Lions for the past three seasons, have not returned from a fishing trip Saturday in water off Clearwater, family members and colleagues said Sunday.

A wave flipped the boat over during a storm Saturday evening and he and his friends held onto the boat's hull, Schuyler told authorities, Coast Guard Petty Officer Robert Simpson told CNN.

Video shot by CNN affiliates showed Schuyler being removed from a Coast Guard helicopter Monday afternoon. He appeared to be talking.

The search, which began early Sunday, now involves three Coast Guardcutters, three C-130 Hercules airplanes and three helicopters combing 16,000 square miles of open water in the Gulf of Mexico, about 50 miles west of Clearwater Pass, according to a Coast Guard statement. The search area Sunday was just 750 square miles.

The Air Force Reserve's 920th Rescue Wing, based at Florida's Tyndall Air Force Base, sent a C-130 airplane and a HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter to join the effort Monday, the Air Force said.

Rough seas and high winds that hampered the search Sunday continued Monday. The Coast Guard reported winds of 15 to 20 knots and waves up to 9 feet in the search area Monday.

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"It feels like my greatest fear coming true -- it doesn't feel real," Cooper's wife, Rebekah, told CNN affiliate WTSP in Tampa on Sunday afternoon. "I'm just waiting for a phone call." Watch relatives, friends express concern for missing boaters ยป

Cooper said she became worried Saturday night when she didn't hear from her husband who, along with his friends, had left on the trip in the early morning hours. She called her husband's fishing buddy, Brian Miller, who contacted the Coast Guard with the coordinates of where the men planned to fish.

"Usually I'm on the boat. It's a little difficult wondering if something would have been different if I had been there," Miller said. "Or who knows? They may be just sitting out there with a broken motor -- and that's what we're hoping for."

He said it was clear something was wrong when Cooper didn't call Saturday night.

"He should've been within range to use his cell phone, and he knows enough to shut it off when he goes out so the batteries are still there," he said.

The four men -- Cooper, Smith, Schuyler and William Bleakley -- embarked in a 21-foot single-engine boat from the Seminole Boat Ramp about 6:30 a.m. Saturday, the Coast Guard said.

"Yesterday the weather conditions were relatively good, but the weather picked up overnight," Coast Guard Capt. Tim Close told reporters Sunday afternoon. "It's a small vessel for the conditions that are out there right now."

Rebekah Cooper said her husband was aware of Sunday's weather forecast and for that reason picked Saturday for the trip.

"Fishing is his first love, it always has been," she said, adding, "I have a lot of faith in him out there."

Cooper's father said he learned of the situation Sunday morning from Rebekah. His son "routinely stays out on the water 12-14 hours," Bruce Cooper, a sports anchor for CNN affiliate KPNX in Phoenix, Arizona, said in a written statement.

Close said authorities had not received a distress signal from the boaters. He said Cooper owns the boat.

Bruce Cooper called his son an "avid fisherman."

"He goes deep-sea fishing any opportunity he gets," Cooper said in the statement. "Two years ago I went deep-sea fishing with him. I swore I would never do so again; I didn't like the fact that I couldn't see land. Needless to say I am very concerned. I am praying and hoping for the best."

This particular boat, a center-console vessel manufactured by Everglades Boats, is billed as "unsinkable," Close added.

The Detroit Lions released a statement acknowledging that Smith was among the missing men, adding, "Our thoughts and prayers are with all the passengers, their families and all those involved in the search efforts."

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 USF, 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.

Schuyler's father, Stu, told reporters that the four men knew each other from working out at a gym, and that his son had accompanied Cooper and Smith on a fishing trip last week that lasted 15 hours.

The Coast Guard asked anyone with information on the boaters to contact its St. Petersburg, Florida, office at 727-824-7506

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