War Cry

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Hundreds mourn missing Tequesta teens two years later

WPEC

WPEC

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On the morning of July 24, 2015, best friends Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen left the Jupiter Inlet on a 19-foot boat to go fishing when a powerful storm hit. Sadly, the 14-year-old boys never made their way home. Later that day, they were official reported missing.

To honor their memory, two years later, over 200 people gathered near the Jupiter Inlet to mourn the boys and support their families. At this year’s memorial, there were booths set up with food and cotton candy, and Austin Blu foundation committee members were giving information on upcoming fishing tournaments and boating seminars held by the foundation. Members also handed out red and white roses to all who visited the memorial that night. As the sun set, close friends and members of the community threw roses into the Inlet.

“I think adding the flowers this year made the memorial super special for all of Perry’s friends. Seeing the flowers floating together really showed how many people came to show support,” said longtime friend of Cohen, Zoie Hawker.

Following the boys’ disappearance, the search went on for weeks. On Friday, July 31, the Coast Guard officially suspended the search, but this did not stop the community from continuing the search themselves. Thousands of dollars were raised for the families to continue the search on their own. With heavy hearts, the families of the boys decided to end the private Investigation on Aug. 8, 2015.

“I was supposed to be out fishing with them that day, but they didn’t pick up the phone. I have worn my A&P necklace every day since then to keep the memory of them close to me until I see them again,” said close friend of Stephanos, Max Botcher.

Since the tragedy, both the Stephanos and Cohen families have created foundations to honor their children, share their stories and spread boating safety awareness. These foundations have become a big part of the Jupiter boating community.

“Being involved with the foundation is special to me because I am teaching younger boaters about the ocean and helping them to understand how fast weather conditions can change in the ocean,” said family friend of Stephanos, and Austin Blu Foundation member, Chad Smith.

The memory of the boys lives on in the hearts they have touched in the Jupiter community. Their families have turned a tragedy into a chance to educate teenage boaters in the area who share the same love for the ocean their sons once had.

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Hundreds mourn missing Tequesta teens two years later