Search for missing Naples doctor halted four days in; officials share hope

Four days after a Naples doctor went missing off shore, the Coast Guard suspended its search Sunday.

Coast Guard crews covered an area of approximately 13,100 square miles over the course of 100 hours, according to a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Members of Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg command center began their initial investigation and searches for Chaundre Cross, 49, on Wednesday.

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“We were notified by Collier County of a missing person, and so we began searching Thursday morning for his vessel,” Ayla Hudson, Petty Officer 1st Class, said. “We located the vessel Thursday afternoon, but Dr. Cross was not aboard.”

Hudson said they then began with a person-in-the-water search.

“We searched until Sunday night with no results,” Hudson said.

They located Cross’ 33-foot vessel dubbed “Vitamin Sea” adrift 16 miles south of Sanibel Island Thursday afternoon.

“We don’t have a lot of information about why he was not on a vessel,” Hudson said. “So we suspended the search, and if we should get new information that would prompt us to begin again, we would do so.”

Hudson said they treat the search for every missing person in the water differently. She added there’s not a standard or average they assign to searches.

“Every case is unique, so we treat each case with the information that we have and provide as many assets as we can for as long as we can,” Hudson said.

She added that searches like this one also depend on factors like the water temperature.

“We were able to search for a number of days because the water temperature is warm,” Hudson said. “So hypothermia is less likely as opposed to searching for somebody up in the waters in Maine at this time of year.”

She emphasizes there are many unknowns with this case.

“We treat every case individually and make the decisions based off the information we have for that one,” Hudson said.

But Hudson says there’s still hope.

“In some instances, a body will turn up later on, and once it’s positively identified we can close the case that way,” Hudson said.

The location could vary as well, Hudson said.

“He very well could turn up somewhere else and still be alive,” she said. “We don’t know … So that’s why we suspend the search until we have, or if we get new information that would prompt us to look into it or search in a certain area again.”

Hudson laments the fact that the situation creates uncertainty.

“It’s a sad thing that we have to stop searching because we weren’t able to find him,” Hudson said. “Our condolences are with family and friends that are dealing with this uncertainty and this hardship right now.”

Hudson also reminds readers of general boating safety.

“Wear a lifejacket if you’re gonna go out on the boat, file a float plan … Tell people where you’re going and when you’re supposed to be back,” Hudson said. “That can get us to the location faster and increase the odds of finding a person.”

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Collier County Sheriff, Lee County Sheriff, and Naples Police also contributed to the search efforts.

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