EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The family of David C. McAuliffe, who is feared lost at sea, desperately begged potential rescuers to not give up on him, saying a favor must be repaid to a man who has saved countless lives on the region’s waters.
“It is time for the public, the authorities, for anybody with a boat who has ever met him, to get your butt on the water and find my husband,” McAuliffe’s wife, Lynsey, 35, sobbed to reporters outside her house Wednesday afternoon.
She said Coast Guard officials visited their home Wednesday afternoon to tell them they would be calling off their search for her 34-year-old husband, an Atlantic City-based captain with the maritime rescue service SeaTow.
His father, David R. McAuliffe, 66, could not hold back tears as he told reporters, “It’s no longer a rescue mission.”
The Coast Guard formally called off its search 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, Coast Guard Petty Officer Cynthia S. Oldham said in a statement, after crews spent 65 hours searching 400 square miles.
Capt. Kathy Moore, commander of Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay, said in a statement that the Coast Guard was “deeply saddened.” She added, “This is a man who made a career of helping others on the water, often placing himself in harm’s way to do so. Our deepest sympathies are with his family, friends and fellow mariners.”
Crews on Wednesday found debris scattered from the Great Egg Inlet to around Stone Harbor. Some pieces, apparently driven by wind and currents, were recovered 11 miles offshore.
Oldham said weather may have made searching more difficult, but five helicopter crews and an array of Coast Guard boats looked for him. Others helped, including Good Samaritans, local and State Police boats, and fellow SeaTow crews.
Lynsey McAuliffe said she relied on her husband. She last saw him Tuesday morning, when he brought her a cup of coffee to her bedside and kissed her goodbye. They are raising a 15-year-old daughter, she said, and property records show he bought their house last summer on Shady Lane in the township’s Bargaintown section.
“And without him, our lives are going to crumble,” she said. “We need him. We need the Coast Guard to treat him as if he were one of their own.
“He is not just any man, people, OK? He is the rock of so many people’s lives. He has dedicated his life to being a seaman, to saving people,” she added. “We cannot, in just over 24 hours, call it in and say, ‘That’s the end of that.’”
“He has assisted stranded boaters, whose boats were sinking, and without him they wouldn’t have their lives,” she said. “He has pulled men out of the water that have been in accidents, that wouldn’t have lived if they didn’t have him on their boat.”
“Bring my husband home,” she continued. “I am pleading and I am begging with every person that’s ever come in contact with him that has a boat that can get out on a boat. Please help me find him. Please help me.”
The Coast Guard said it received an alert from an emergency radio beacon about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday and responded by air within seven minutes. The agency said McAuliffe had left Farley State Marina in Atlantic City about 7:45 a.m. en route to C-Jam Marina in Somers Point, but after issuing the alert did not respond to radio or cellphone calls.
McAuliffe was aboard the Cape Hatteras, a 49-foot vessel based in Atlantic City. It was equipped with two survival suits and two life rafts, the Coast Guard said, although the Coast Guard published a photo of one empty life raft Tuesday.
David R. McAuliffe said his son “was a great young man” with a large family and a welcoming group of friends.
The family initially lived in Forked River in Ocean County. McAuliffe, 66, now of Egg Harbor Township, said his son’s mother died when he was a child. McAuliffe said he remarried, and that woman, who did not want to be identified, helped raise him.
McAuliffe said a person who is no longer in the family introduced his son to the water, and he took to it immediately. After his son graduated from Lacey Township High School in 1998, his son moved to Florida to attend boating school.
McAuliffe said his son had been with SeaTow for about 10 years. “He was so proud of what he did,” he said.
The company’s website said the younger McAuliffe was SeaTow Atlantic City’s lead captain, saying he held a 50-ton master captain’s license and was certified for commercial assistance tows. McAuliffe also operated the company’s two 48-foot crew boats.
SeaTow spokeswoman Kristen Frohnhoefer said the company appreciates the Coast Guard’s efforts and the company has assisted throughout.
McAuliffe said his son helped with dredge crews in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, aiding an emergency beach replenishment project at Fire Island, N.Y., where stormwaters had sliced a new inlet.
He also helped recover sea research probes placed by Rutgers University after their batteries had drained.
As the hours ticked by and rescue seemed less and less likely Wednesday, McAuliffe said he still held out hope that his son would be found alive, somehow, somewhere. He said his son is a Christian, and McAuliffe said he could only place his faith in God.
“The thing you have to understand is God only knows,” McAuliffe said. “This is out of our hands.”
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