Coast Guard: U.S. Navy assisting in search after missing man’s boat found off Wrightsville Beach coast

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – The search continues for 47-year-old Jeffrey Kale, a missing boater last seen Saturday near the Southport/Oak Island area.

The U.S. Coast Guard tells WECT that Kale’s boat is believed to have been found Tuesday, but no one was found on board. USCG officials say the boat was found more than 80 miles east off the coast of Wrightsville Beach.

“Anytime we find a boat with no one on board we’re concerned because the boat is underway, it’s operating it’s moving, the engines are on and engaged,” said USCG Senior Chief Logan Adkisson.

The search is now beginning again after the USCG initially suspended the search on Monday, April 8. The Coast Guard confirms the U.S. Navy is now assisting in the search for Kale.

“The search was suspended, because we had no new information, and no sightings of Mr. Kale or his vessel, and and now that we have a signing of the vessel, we can refocus those efforts,” said Chief Adkisson.

According to police, Kale went fishing in the Atlantic Ocean on April 6 in his 32-foot Cape Horn Boat with hull number NC4431FA. Kale was last seen around 4 p.m. Saturday near the Dutchman Creek Boat Ramp in Southport, according to Chief Adkisson.

The boat was spotted by a good samaritan in the area, according to Adkisson. The Coast Guard also confirms there’s no visible damage to the boat and fishing gear was found on the board. A commercial towing company will tow the boat to shore.

The USCG gave the following statement on Monday:

“It is with heavy hearts that we suspend our active search for Mr. Kale,” said Sector North Carolina Deputy Commander Corrie Sergent, “Our extensive search by air and sea with numerous crews, assets, and several good Samaritans, saturated the various areas we believed he may be. Anytime we conduct a search and rescue it is with the hope of bringing someone back home and safely reuniting them with their family and friends. The decision to suspend a search is one of the most difficult decisions to make. Our thoughts are with the Kale family.”

“Coast Guard Sector North Carolina watchstanders received a notification from Kale’s family stating he was overdue from a fishing trip around 10:30 p.m.,” the USCG said in a press release.

Rescue crews searching include:

  • Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City HC-130 Hercules airplane
  • Coastal patrol boat USCGC Steelhead (WPB 87324)
  • Coast Guard Station Oak Island 29-foot Response Boat-Small

Crews reportedly searched for nearly 72 hours and covered more than 7,762 square miles before suspending the search Monday night.

OIPD provided the following update on Sunday, April 7:

“The Oak Island Police Department is still actively participating in the investigation of missing boater, Jeffrey Kale. We are still assisting the United States Coast Guard with any investigative leads and have been working directly with the family to ensure an efficient transfer of information. The United States Coast Guard is still actively searching fishing grounds and specific areas in the Atlantic Ocean based on previous trips and information from the family. A search grid has been established and the use of marine resources and Coast Guard aircraft are being utilized.”

And while the search continues for Kale, the Coast Guard is stressing some tips for boaters, especially those going out by themselves.

The Coast Guard says to have a plan and let your family and friends know where you are and where you plan to go.

And finally, make sure you keep a life jacket on board and don’t forget to hook up the kill engine switch.

“It’s really important that people in your family and your friends your neighbor somebody knows where you’re going before you take off because if someone doesn’t hear from you, at least the Coast Guard knows where to search,” said Chief Adkisson.