Fears for Charlie Jackson and Jason Cobb after being 'ejected' from their boat during bachelor party in alligator-infested lake
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Search and rescue teams in Florida are hunting for two bachelor party revelers feared dead after they were 'ejected' off a boat into alligator-infested waters.
Charlie Jackson, 26, and Jason Cobb, 30, both of Osteen, disappeared in the early hours of Saturday after going fishing in a 15ft boat on a lake best known for the giant beasts.
Seminole County deputies and state wildlife officers searched last night using a sheriff's helicopter, equipped with heat-sensing technology, to circle Lake Jesup after dark.
Jason Cobb (left) and Charlie Jackson of Volusia County are missing after launching a fishing boat on Lake Jesup. Friends and family have appealed for help to find them on Facebook
But so far they have found no trace of the pair. Searchers did find old shoes and white sneakers but could not confirm whether the items belonged to either man.
Lieutenant Jeff Hudson of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told the Orlando Sentinel: 'It's come up negative.'
Mr Jackson's father Bill, 55, admitted: 'It doesn't look real good for them. I'm just facing reality.'
Authorities planned to resume the search of the lake this morning with the helicopter and boats and ATVs along the marshy shores.
Lt Hudson said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Seminole deputies also may enlist the help of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Family members said the two missing men had attended a bachelor party before heading out on the lake after midnight on Saturday.
The group launched Mr Jackson's 15ft Bass Tracker boat from the marina at Black Hammock Adventures in Seminole County about 1am, said Joy Hill, an FWC spokeswoman.
Friends and family of two missing boaters look on as Lt Jeff Hudson gives an update on the search for them at the Black Hammock Fish Camp and Restaurant in Oviedo, Florida
The boat was found Saturday afternoon undamaged and with the keys in the ignition in cattails less than a mile north of the fish camp, near Bird Island.
Two life jackets, two paddles, eight unopened beer cans and one partly empty can of beer were on the boat, Ms Hill said. 'It appears they may have been ejected from the vessel,' Hill said in a statement.
Lt Hudson said Sunday's search concentrated on the wooded northwest shoreline near where a family friend found the fishing boat in a 'weeded area'
He also said the family was briefed about the search efforts, which could transition into a recovery mission.
Lt Hudson confirmed that Mr Cobb and Mr Jackson attended a gathering at the Black Hammock fishing camp prior to setting off on the water.
The camp is a popular tourist attraction and private boat ramp for locals in a rural section of Seminole County. It includes a full bar, restaurant, wildlife exhibit and offers air boat tours.
Lt Hudson would not say if the two men had been drinking.
The sheriff said: The men left from Black Hammock (Adventures) Fish Camp about 1am on Saturday, headed to Lemon Bluff in Osteen but didn't make it
Lt Hudson said: 'We've done the water search, and right now we're focusing our efforts on the shore, where the vessel was found.'
Family members said the gathering was a bachelor party. The weather that night was wet and stormy with temperatures in the mid-60s, according to the National Weather Service in Melbourne. Temperatures tumbled overnight.
About 1am, the men headed home toward Lemon Bluff boat ramp in Volusia County near Osteen, where Mr Cobb lives.
The boat was turned over to family Saturday once investigators determined it held no evidentiary value for the search.
Asked about the threat of alligators, Hudson said it is unlikely the reptiles were out because cold temperatures sends them into underwater caves to stay warm. He said they go into a hibernation-like state and don't eat or hunt as much during the winter.
Officials were more concerned about the cold weather. Hudson said if the men are still out there they may have succumbed to the effects of hypothermia as overnight temperatures the last two nights dropped to the low 40s and near freezing with wind-chill factors.
'We deal with possibilities and probabilities. It's possible they're still alive, yes,' Lt Hudson told the Orlando Sentinel. 'Is it probable? I don't know.'
Family members did not want to talk about either of the men and said they simply wanted to continue the search.
'We really don't have much to say. We are tired and just want some peace', one family member said.