DESTIN — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Tuesday continued to search for the boater who went missing in Choctawhatchee Bay even as the Coast Guard ended its search.
Thomas Robinett, a 34-year-old Destin man, was ejected from a 20-foot center console vessel early Sunday afternoon after the boat took an unexplained "hard turn," according to FWC spokeswoman Rebekah Nelson.
Nelson said Robinett was operating the boat.
Another man, 33-year-old Matthew Martinello, was also thrown from the boat. He was rescued by the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office after deputies responded to reports of the rogue vessel. He was taken to a hospital and released the next day. Nelson said it did not appear that Martinello had been struck by the boat.
According to a news release, the Coast Guard said the boat was found circling in the bay and had struck Robinett while he was stranded in the water.
Nelson, however, could not confirm that the boat hit the missing man. She confirmed the boat was running in circles until it was stopped by a tow company and taken to the Coast Guard station.
The FWC is investigating the accident.
Nelson said the agency continued to search by helicopter and boat, as well as with scuba divers.
"We'll call it off when it gets dark and pick it back up tomorrow," Nelson said Tuesday afternoon.
Nelson said the search is primarily confined to the bay, but helicopters also have flown repeatedly over East Pass. She said the accident happened about a half-mile off the Destin Army Recreation Area.
She said FWC continues to call it a search and rescue mission, even though more than 48 hours have passed since Robinett went missing.
The men were not wearing life jackets and alcohol is not believed to be a factor, Nelson said.
Nelson said anyone who sees anything should call FWC Dispatch at 888-404-3922. She did not encourage people to go out and search for Robinett.
"I don't want them to impede in the search that we're doing," she said.