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Cooper family accepts inevitable
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Photo courtesy of COAST GUARD
Crewmembers from Coast Guard Cutter Tornado rescue Nick Schuyler from an overturned vessel about 35 miles west of Egmont Key on Monday, March 2.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard
Nick Schuyler, 24, is wearing his lifejacket as he sits on top of the over-turned 21-foot boat about noon Monday. He was found by search crews about 39 miles west of Egmont Key.
Crewmembers from Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater lift Nick Schuyler, 24, into a helicopter after he was rescued from overturned vessel about 35 miles west of Tampa Bay.
Photo Courtesy of
Reports say Nick Schuyer, 24, is now at Tampa General Hospital after being rescued on Monday by the U.S. Coast Guard in waters off Tampa Bay.
TAMPA - The family of Marquis Cooper have ended the search for three men still missing at sea somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the latest news from Pastor Hal Mayer at halma­yer.b­logsp­­m, “The Cooper family has received the final news that Marquis, Corey and Will all passed from this life into eternity. The Cooper family is trusting God big and seeking him for comfort.”

Mayer is pastor of the Church of the Bay in Tampa. The Coopers are members of the congregation.

Cooper, 26, Corey Smith, 29, Will Bleakley, 25, and Nick Schuyler, 24, were reported missing about 1:30 a.m. on March 1, after they failed to return from a fishing trip. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the men left the Seminole Boat Ramp in Clearwater Pass around 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 28, in a 21-foot center-console boat.

The only survivor, Schuyler, was rescued at noon on March 2 by the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Tornado about 35 miles west of Egmont Key, sitting on top of the over-turned 21-foot boat with a life-jacket on.

Schuyler is recovering at Tampa General Hospital.

The Coast Guard ended its search for the three men at 6:30 p.m. on March 3.

"After exhaustive search efforts, we were unable to locate the missing men and the difficult decision was made to suspend our active search," Capt. Timothy Close, commander of Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg, said.

Coast Guard and Air Force crews from as far away as Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi joined Coast Guard crews from Clearwater and St. Petersburg, as well as personnel and boats from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in a three-day search that covered more than 24,000 square miles.

The Coast Guard reported that the only signs of the other men found were an orange life vest and a cooler, which were recovered about 19 miles southeast of where Schuyler was found.

Cooper’s family refused to give up the search for Marquis and the others and asked for help from pilots and boat captains, who continued the search for another three days, finding no signs of the missing.

The 21-foot boat capsized while anchored on Saturday afternoon after waves and winds began to build as a cold front passed through.

AccuW­eathe­ said buoy reports off the Florida west coast showed winds Saturday were in the 15- to 25-knot range and waves on that portion of the Gulf of Mexico were 2 to 4 feet. Late Saturday night and Sunday, wind and waves increased with wave heights running close to 14 feet ahead. Water temperatures hovered between the low 60s and upper 50s.

Cooper and Smith were former members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Most recently, Cooper played linebacker for the Oakland Raiders. Smith, a free agent, formerly played defensive end for the Detroit Lions.

Bleakley and Schuyler played foot ball for the University of South Florida and were teammates in 2006.

Members of the National Football League assisted the family in its search efforts.

On Friday afternoon, the reports came in that the Coopers were halting the search.

“On behalf of all the families we thank you for your prayers,” Mayer said.
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