Father of Austin Stephanos, Teen Lost at Sea, Opens Up About the Difficult Year: I Always Hope They’ll ‘Come Walking in That Door’

Never giving up. Blu Stephanos, the father of Austin Stephanos — the Florida teen who went missing at sea last summer along with his friend Perry Cohen — opened up about the difficult year of grieving and the latest setback with the recovered iPhone.

“I don’t have any closure at this point,” Blu said in an interview with local Palm Beach news channel WPTZ. “I don’t know if I ever will. I always will have the hope that they will come walking in that door. You love someone so much you’ll never give up.” 

Austin Stephanos
Austin Stephanos US Coast Guard

“I truly never wanted to be my son’s hero so bad in my life," he continued. "To think that my son needed me and I wasn’t able to reach him or be there is difficult enough.”

The boys, both 14 at the time of their disappearance, left for a one-day fishing trip from Jupiter Inlet on July 24, 2015, and vanished. When the teens didn’t return home, the Coast Guard and private pilots conducted vast searches, but were unable to locate them or their bodies. In March of this year, a Norwegian cargo ship spotted the teens’ boat off the coast of Bermuda, and were able to recover several personal items from it, including Austin’s iPhone.

Perry Cohen
Perry Cohen US Coast Guard

Both families were hopeful the mobile device might provide clues to what happened, but they were notified earlier this week that a team of engineers at Apple were unable to recover any data or get the phone powered on after it spent almost eight months submerged in salt water.

“[Austin] gave me meaning in my life and gave me direction,” Blu said in the emotional interview. “I believe in my heart I know what happened. I want to believe what happened, happened fast … These conspiracy theories, they hurt.”

The boys went missing during a bout of bad weather, and the families want to believe they got caught in the storm. However, investigators were looking into signs of foul play, because the boat was intentionally disabled with the hard-to-access ignition and battery switches both in the off position, NBC reported, including the possibility that the boys may have been abducted.   

Blu also touched on the recent legal battles surrounding the iPhone with Perry’s family, who wanted the device to be handed over to authorities and investigated by an expert, instead of its manufacturer, Apple. “I’d like people to be a little more sensitive and realize this is a family that is hurting,” Blu said through tears. “There is an 11-year-old boy that’s involved in this. You don’t realize how this affects him. He lost his brother,” he said of Austin’s little brother, Dakoda.

The news station spoke to the Cohen family’s attorney as well, who said they are looking at other options for the phone and they want a thorough inspection of the boat when it is returned to Florida on May 16. “We are not going to stop until all avenues are explored, every stone is turned over. This is certainly not the end,” Guy Rubin, the Cohen’s attorney, said. Blu also said that he is discussing other avenues to pursue regarding the iPhone. 

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