The families of two Florida teens who vanished off the coast of Bermuda last summer are hoping for answers from a recently recovered cellphone, according to CBSMiami and the Associated Press.
Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, both 14, left on a boating trip together from Jupiter Inlet on July 24, 2015, and never returned. Lengthy searches by the Coast Guard and private pilots failed to find the teens or their bodies, CBSMiami reports. The Coast Guard called off the search July 31, and the families suspended their private search efforts August 8. This March, a Norwegian cargo ship spotted and recovered the teens’ 19-foot boat and were able to recover Stephanos’ iPhone and some personal belongings, according to the local news station.
The families of the two boys feuded over the waterlogged iPhone after Austin's father, Blu Stephanos, refused to give the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation permission to investigate the mobile device. He later explained his reasoning in an April 25 Facebook post, citing the recent case in which the government filed suit against Apple to force the tech company to break into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone and the desire to avoid media attention. “We didn’t want to do anything publicly to jeopardize the cooperation of the manufacturer. Unfortunately, I feel the recent publicity and wild speculation may have done just that,” Blu wrote in the statement. “This phone represents a connection with my son, so I thank you all for your continued support.”
On the other hand, Perry’s family believed the phone could provide clues as to what happened and filed a lawsuit to force Blu to hand over the phone to the FWC. Perry’s mother, Pamela Cohen, spoke out against Blu’s decision and posted a statement on Facebook on April 23. “In a nearly miraculous turn of events, we now have what may be the key to answering so many questions we all have about that fateful day. As a mother, I owe it to Perry to fight for him when he cannot,” she wrote.
Just a few days later, Perry’s family issued a statement on Tuesday, April 26, stating they are dropping the suit in the interest of cooperation and they are satisfied that Austin’s family will share whatever information is found on the phone. “We accept the offer of Blu Stephanos to share the contents of the iPhone with us and the FWC,” the Cohen family said in a statement, according to WPBF 25 News. Pamela also posted an April 26 statement on Facebook confirming that she had turned over all of Perry’s electronic devices to authorities.
As CBSMiami reported, on the morning of the boys’ disappearance, Perry sent a text to his mother, saying, “Mom, it’s Perry. My iPad is dead, I’ll text you in a little. Love you.” His mother wrote back, “OK. I wanted you to sleep home tonight, I miss you. We leave Sunday morning for New York. What about your work?” Perry assured his mom he had done his homework and wrote, “But I was going to sleep at,,,.” He never finished the message.
The families are hopeful the contents of Austin’s phone might give them further answers about what happened.
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