A body in a life vest was found by searchers seeking a father and his three teen children who went missing three days after their sailboat encountered rough waters off the coast of Florida, Coast Guard officials said.
Officials did not say which of the four family member's remains had been recovered.
Ace Kimberly, 45, his 17-year-old daughter Rebecca Kimberly, and his sons Donny Kimberly, 15, and Roger Kimberly, 13, were last seen at about 9 a.m. Sunday when they set out on their 29-foot sailboat near Sarasota, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
There is still no sign of the boat, authorities said. Debris including shoes and a basketball were found earlier Wednesday.
At a Thursday morning press conference, the Coast Guard said they had also located a bucket about five miles from the body that contained birth certificates.
The Coast Guard saw what appeared to be a flare around 2 a.m. Thursday and teams have been searching the area ever since, USCG Captain Gregory Case said at the press conference. But he added that the light could have come from another source, such as from a plane.
The Coast Guard, and other agencies, are continuing to search for the family members, he said. It is not yet a recovery mission. "At this point, we haven't crossed that bridge," he said.
The family encountered trouble about halfway through their 75-mile trip to Fort Myers Beach, where they were planning to meet Ace Kimberly's brother, who was going to help repair the boat, officials said.
"The vessel was not in the best of shape and they were taking it down there so the brother could help them work on it," Case said Wednesday. He noted Kimberly and the three children had been living on the boat for about a year in Sarasota.
The father called his brother about 3 p.m. Sunday to say they were in six-foot seas and was "attempting to survive with his children offshore of Englewood and requested weather information," authorities said.
Coast Guard aircrews located at about 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday a debris field about 33 miles offshore of Sanibel Island, including a tarp, four water bottles found tied together, one or two tennis shoes, a propane tank and a basketball, authorities said.
Six of the seven life jackets were also found at the debris site.
Two kayaks that were being towed by the vessel were recovered near the debris site Wednesday afternoon, the Coast Guard said.
Personal items located off the coast of Sanibel, Florida, believed to belong to missing family. pic.twitter.com/rCjvJzD3zk— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) June 22, 2016
The Coast Guard never received a distress call from the family, the Coast Guard said, but the Fort Myers area experienced a brief thunderstorm Sunday afternoon, National Weather Service data shows.
A concerned family member called the Coast Guard sector in St. Petersburg about the missing family on Tuesday, officials said. It was not clear why authorities were not alerted sooner.
Other close relatives have been notified of the Kimberly family's disappearance.
"They are terrified as you can imagine, they're all feeling what were all feeling; very anxious and upset and hoping for the best," Case said.
Air and boat crews have been dispatched to search for the group, including an HC-130 Hercules plane, an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and a 45-foot response boat.
The Coast Guard Cutter Alligator, an 87-foot long coastal patrol boat, is also aiding in the search, authorities said.
The Maritime Emergency Response Team and Air Station Miami were also activated for the search.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family; I know this is a super difficult time for them and we are doing everything we can, and throwing everything we have, at this search at this time," Case said.
Mariners have been asked to be on the lookout for the family, and are advised to contact Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg at (727) 824-7506 with any information.