The search continues for a a 32-year-old tow boat operator off the coast of Ocean City, the Coast Guard confirmed Wednesday afternoon, April 24.
David McAuliffe, of Egg Harbor Township, went missing Tuesday morning, April 23, and the Coast Guard received a distress alert from an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) near Great Egg Harbor.
The search continued through the night on Tuesday. The search continued on Wednesday afternoon, but a decision on whether the search should continue will be made around sunset Wednesday evening, Coast Guard officials said.
The 45-foot Sea Tow boat Cape Hatteras departed Absecon Inlet at approximately 7:45 a.m. with one person aboard and was en route to Great Egg Harbor, according to the boat's owner. At about 10:45 a.m., Coast Guard watchstanders received an EPIRB activation alert. The operator aboard the Cape Hatteras did not respond to cell phone or radio calls.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, a 45-foot Response Boat — Medium crew from Coast Guard Station Cape May and the crew of the 87-foot Coast Guard Cutter Finback, homeported in Cape May, and members from several local shoreline police departments are searching for the missing tow boat operator. Members from the New Jersey State Police also assisted in the search.
For much of Tuesday afternoon, the crews were searching off the southern end of Ocean City, where a strong northeast swell would have pushed the missing boater. The ocean water temperature was 50 degrees on Wednesday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service out of Mount Holly.
It was reported Cape Hatteras had survival equipment aboard, including two survival suits and two life rafts.
The Cape Hatteras has a gray hull with a white superstructure, according to the Coast Guard.
"We were on scene within seven minutes of the initial notification," Lt. Randy Slusher, a helicopter pilot at Air Station Atlantic City, said in a release. "We were returning from a training mission when we heard the EPIRB, and we immediately diverted to conduct search patterns. We had to return to base due to low fuel, but another aircrew had already launched to search before we departed [the scene]."
Sea Tow is a boat towing and marine salvage company with locations throughout the region. Sea Tow Atlantic City lists the following biography for McAuliffe on its website: "Capt. David holds a 50 Ton Master Captain's License and a commercial assistance towing endorsement. David also runs our (2) 48' Crew Boats for various offshore and inshore companies."
McAuliffe graduated from Lacey Township High School in 1997.