JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A 50-foot Hatteras that sailed from North Myrtle Beach and was found demolished off the Florida coast last week may have been destroyed in a collision with a larger ship, a possibility being investigated by the Coast Guard.
Chong K. Lum, a Venezuelan in his mid-30s, bought the boat on the Grand Strand and was sailing south with friends.
Lum's family said investigators have told them they are checking ship traffic that was in the sea lanes near where the wreckage and the body of one passenger were found.
Lum, another companion and an unidentified American captain have not been found. A fourth man who was supposed to travel with the others to Venezuela on the boat flew home instead.
Allen Hill, whose wife is a cousin of Lum's, said there was an emergency beacon on the boat but it never activated. The family was told the Coast Guard recovered a flying bridge and boat deck from the debris field in the Atlantic Ocean 22 miles east of Jacksonville. The wreckage was discovered by a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission research plane.
"So whatever happened was quick," Hill said. "The boat wasn't sinking or taking on water."
The Coast Guard recovered the body of Guillermo Gonzalez Losada, 49, and 10 floating life vests. Losada, whose passport was found, was not wearing a vest.
"I don't think there was any foul play indicated," Hill said.
The Coast Guard's investigative unit in Miami has taken over the case and will check ship traffic and the possibility that a collision with a large commercial freighter occurred, said Petty Officer Third Class Jessica Potter, a spokeswoman for the service.
"That's definitely one of the possibilities," she said.
The boat was a 1981 Hatteras convertible named On The Way and bought in North Myrtle Beach, Lum's family said. Potter said the Coast Guard has not been able to identify an American captain who was on board.
The search for survivors was suspended after more than 50 hours of patrolling with cutters, other boats and aircraft.