Aspenite missing in Florida Keys
LONG KEY, Fla. The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for Christopher Smith of Aspen after finding his boat idling adrift Tuesday morning in the Florida Keys with no one aboard. Smith, 57, former owner of Aspen Earthmoving – where he still serves in an advisory role – is a longtime Aspenite. He is married to Toni Zurcher. Jeff Hale, executive vice president of Aspen Earthmoving, said Smith’s family is either in Florida or on its way. According to Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Mike Bell, Zurcher had a conversation with Smith on Monday afternoon or evening while he was on the boat. Smith was expected back in port Monday evening, but his 20-foot Boston Whaler was spotted Tuesday morning in shallow water a few miles north of Long Key, Fla. The Coast Guard said snorkeling gear was on board and that there was no damage to the boat. Wednesday, the Coast Guard found Smith’s vehicle parked at a nearby resort, Hawk’s Cay, where there is a marina. The Coast Guard is in charge of the search and is using a C-130 search plane, HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, Dolphin helicopter and numerous boats.”We are looking in all possible areas where Mr. Smith may be,” Bell said. “We continue searching the area at night.”The Coast Guard is mainly looking on the Gulf of Mexico side of Long Key, an island in the middle of the 110 mile-long Florida Keys. Bell said the search area is roughly from the Middle Keys toward the Florida mainland.”We look at any small islands in the area to see if he might be stranded on one of those,” Bell said. “We have several just off the inhabited portions of the keys.”The Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department are helping in the search. A Monroe County sheriff’s representative said Smith’s family has filed a missing persons report. Weather has mostly been sunny in the area, though there have been thunderstorms in the Keys and more storms predicted for Thursday.Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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