10 Unsolved Cases of Disappearance at Sea
There’s perhaps nothing more calming than a trip to the sea where you can revel in the deafening silence of the air and the gentle lapping of the water. However, even the most experienced sailors out there are prone to some risks at sea. From windy storms and forceful waves, there is a lot that could go wrong out there as many people throughout history have found. So, without further ado, here are ten unsolved cases of disappearance at sea.
1 On 24 January 1979, Debra Lee Vowell, the daughter of a renowned TV director, was out sailing with her husband and a companion when the trio went missing. An extensive search of the ocean between California and Mexico, where they were last seen, revealed very little information. Two years later, Mrs. Wovell’s grandfather allegedly received a call from her, but she and her companions still remain missing.
Debra Lee Wovell, her husband Dennis Wovell, and their companion Gary Newton went mysteriously missing at sea on 24 January 1979. The trio had been sailing near the coast of San Diego in a 41-foot fishing boat.
The United States Coast Guard then conducted an air and sea search for the three, covering the ocean between San Luis Obispo in California and Ensenada in Mexico.
However, they failed to find the Wovells and Newton or their boat. Two years after the incident, Mrs. Wovell’s grandfather received a collect call in the middle of the night. Upon enquiring about the caller’s identity, they are alleged to have shouted, “It’s Debbie. I am trying to go to California.”
Since then, no one has heard from Mrs. Wovell or the others. According to investigators, the three are likely to have gone missing in relation to a drug-smuggling organization operating in the area. (1, 2)
2 The 63-year-old Silicon Valley legend, Jim Gray, went missing at sea on 28 January 2007. Being an experienced sailor, the police found it suspicious that there was no Mayday call from his boat or that no one had spotted the vessel floating adrift. In 2012, after years of extensive searches yielding zero results, Mr. Gray was declared dead under California law.
On 28 January 2007, Microsoft researcher Jim Gray went missing at sea despite being an experienced sailor. He had been out sailing on his boat, Tenacious, and had plans to head out to the Farallon Islands.
On the morning of his disappearance, he had spoken to his wife over the phone, assuring her of his well-being, and left his daughter an upbeat voicemail, indicating that suicide was an unlikely option.
Interestingly, the Coast Guard reported that they had not received any Mayday calls from Mr. Gray, nor did they intercept any homing signal from his boat which would indicate it had sunk.
Given his celebrity status in the tech community, the extensive search efforts to find Mr. Gray quickly became national news. However, it still failed to procure any useful leads. Finally, in 2012, after years of searching for him and failing, Jim Gray was declared dead under California law. (1, 2)
3 In 2005, a couple named George and Jennifer Smith were on their honeymoon aboard a cruise ship, when Mr. Smith disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Official investigations concluded that Mr. Smith had fallen overboard accidentally, somewhere between Greece and Turkey, but his family believes that he was murdered. Four other passengers were detained and questioned in this regard, but the case still remains unsolved.
In 2005, George and Jennifer Smith were on their honeymoon aboard a Royal Caribbean ship when Mr. Smith mysteriously disappeared.
The day before his disappearance, Mr. Smith had been spotted socializing with several other passengers in the ship’s casino. Of these passengers, four men named Josh Askin, Zachary and Greg Rozenberg, and Rusty Kofman are likely the last people to have seen him alive.
On 5 July, the four men had accompanied Mr. Smith from the casino because he was too drunk to walk by himself. At this time, Mrs. Smith was not around because she had passed out and fallen asleep in one of the ship’s hallways.
When she returned to their room at 5 a.m, her husband was nowhere to be seen. Initial investigations revealed several suspicious facts, such as a bloodstain on the deck in the shape of a human body. However, it is still not clear whether Mr. Smith’s disappearance was an accident. (1, 2)
4 On 11 December 2019, 83-year-old Felicity Loveday and her 56-year-old son Adrian Meneveau went mysteriously missing during a “cleansing” trip at sea. Being Freemasons, the duo believed that Ms. Loveday had been plagued by evil spirits that could only be exorcized over salt waters. Five days later, their empty vessel was found submerged by some fishermen, with no sign of either of them.
Eighty-three-year-old Felicity Loveday and her 56-year-old son, Adrian Meneveau, were two Freemasons who went missing on 11 December 2019.
They were last seen at the Oliver Hill boat ramp in Melbourne, Australia by Mr. Meneveau’s sister. She had also taken a photo of the mother and son in their boat before they left. Days later, their boat was found submerged by a fisherman, carrying just one life jacket.
According to official reports, Ms. Loveday was a former “worship master” in the Freemason society. Believing that she had become plagued with “evil spirits,” she and her son had set sail to the ocean to exorcise them.
In a more recent development, the police have theorized that Ms. Loveday, who was suffering from dementia, was already dead before they set sail, and it is her dead body that is visible in the picture clicked by Mr. Meneveau’s sister. (1, 2)
5 Six years ago, in 2015, two Florida teens named Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos went missing at sea during a fishing trip. Officials later sanctioned the use of numerous boats and aircraft to search for the missing boys, eventually leading to the discovery of their vessel. Sadly, despite some potential evidence of foul play, search efforts were called off a few days later, after it became apparent that they were unlikely to have survived.
On 24 July 2015, Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, both 14 years old, set off on a fishing trip from Jupiter Inlet in Florida but never made it back. Their capsized boat was later discovered about 160 km off of Bermuda.
Along with the discovery of their vessel came new theories on their mysterious disappearance. For instance, since the vessel had its ignition in the “off” position, some people suspected foul play while others claimed the boys must have turned it off at some point.
However, despite hundreds of boats and aircrafts searching extensively for the two, there was very little evidence to be found anywhere. Later, a pilot came forward with the claim that he had likely seen them in the sea, floating on debris. Unfortunately, none of these leads proved to be helpful and the search was officially called off after a week of no results. (1, 2)
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