OCEAN CITY — After searching a 20,000-plus square mile area of open ocean for nearly two days, the U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday announced it had suspended the search for two missing boaters and their vessel, which left Ocean City early Saturday morning bound for Chincoteague and did not report to their destination as planned.
Brothers Michael Bramlett, 51, and Donald Bramlett, 54, left Ocean City early Saturday morning in the 38-foot sportfishing boat “Reel Fun” and were headed to Chincoteague. The Bramletts reportedly had recently purchased the vessel in New Jersey and were in the process of moving it to Florida. Around 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, Michael Bramlett’s wife contacted Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads after the “Reel Fun” did not arrive in Chincoteague on Saturday evening as expected.
The Coast Guard issued an urgent marine information broadcast and diverted the crew of the Coast Guard cutter “Mako”, an 87-foot patrol boat based in Cape May to the area to begin search efforts. Initially, the search focused on the area between Ocean City and Chincoteague where the vessel was traveling.
By Monday, the search and been expanded to a vast section of the mid-Atlantic coast between Cape May and North Carolina. For the next 32 hours, the Coast Guard searched for the missing boaters and their vessel in a vast area of 20,400 overlapping square miles using crews aboard an HC-130 Hercules helicopter and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Atlantic City, and a 45-foot response boat from Station Little Creek in Virginia Beach.
At one point, the U.S. Navy ship Bunker Hill assisted in the search when they spotted a possible debris field and helped vector in the Coast Guard assets assigned to the search. On Wednesday morning, the Coast Guard announced it had suspended the search for the two missing boaters.
“The decision to suspend a search is very difficult, but after an exhaustive search by air and surface crews over the last several days, the Coast Guard suspended our search for the two missing boaters,” said Capt. John Little, Commander of Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads on Wednesday. “I cannot imagine the sadness felt by the family of these men and my deepest sympathy goes out to them.”