UPDATE: Missing Connecticut boater found dead

05/27/2011 2:47 PM |
JOSEPH TUMMINELLO PHOTO | A Riverhead Police boat scans the Sound shoreline in Northville Friday. The missing boater, whose sailboat can be seen in the background being towed, left Connecticut last night.

JOSEPH TUMMINELLO PHOTO | A Riverhead Police boat scans the Sound shoreline in Northville Friday. The sailboat, named Jagular, can be seen in the background being towed.

UPDATE: The body of 63-year-old Francis Closter III was found floating in the Long Island Sound off Connecticut at about 2:30 p.m. Friday, Connecticut State Police said.

A state police marine unit recovered the body and was bringing it to shore in Connecticut, said State Police Lt. Paul Vance.

The cause of death is still unclear.

“There will be a postmortem exam at the medical examiner’s office,” Lt. Vance said. “That will be followed by a state Department of Environmental Protection investigation into if it was a boating accident. They’ll examine the boat.”

PRIOR STORY: Riverhead Police have called off the local search for a missing Connecticut boater in the Long Island Sound, although the U.S. Coast Guard and Connecticut State Police are still looking for the 63-year-old.

Francis Closter III’s 35-foot sailboat was found by ConocoPhillips workers shortly about 5:30 a.m. today, Friday, along the shore near the oil company’s terminal in Northville, authorities said.

The workers alerted police, which prompted the search.

It was later learned that Mr. Closter, who has a history of health problems, had left Midway Marina in Haddom, Conn. about 5 p.m. Thursday and was headed for Clinton, Conn.

But he never got to Clinton, said Riverhead Police Lt. Dave Lessard.

“We’re hoping for the best,” Lt. Lessard said when asked whether or not Mr. Closter is believed to be alive. “But we’re looking to see if he went overboard. We conducted an extensive search on our side of the Sound and it was inconclusive at this point.”

Riverhead Police, aided by Suffolk Police helicopters, the U.S. Coast Guard, Southold Police and Riverhead, Jamesport and Wading River firefighters, called off the search about 9:30 p.m.

As of about 10:15 a.m., the Coast Guard and Connecticut authorities were conducting search operations closer to the Connecticut shoreline, said Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller.

“If he went overboard, that’s probably where he went overboard,” he said. “The GPS shows where he originated, where he was going, and at a point in between the boat was kind of doing circles by the Connecticut River. They’ve also located some other equipment up there.”

Mr. Closter is believed to suffer from diabetes, Chief Hegermiller said.

Lt. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police Department said the Coast Guard notified Mr. Closter’s spouse about 9 a.m. Friday that the boat had been found unattended off Long Island.

That call came about 30 minutes after she reported her husband missing, he said.

“Right now the Coast Guard is helping us search the waterways, along with the Department of Environmental Protection” Lt. Vance said

“We’re investigating this as a missing person,” he added.

After finding the boat, called Jagular, the ConocoPhillips workers tied it to a pier where it awaited the authorities, Lt. Lessard said. It was later towed from the scene.

According to a U.S. Coast Guard press release, the vessel had its “sails up and electronics running” when it was found.

“Closter’s wallet and glasses were also found aboard the boat,” according to Coast Guard officials, who are asking anyone with information to call (203) 468-4401.

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Joseph Tumminello contributed reporting to this story.



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