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Search for American Samoan teens lost at sea is called off

The families of Alex Peric and Anthony Leota maintain their vigil.
Source: RNZI

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The search for two cousins missing off Utumea beach has been called off.

It had been extended to midnight beyond the 72 hour search period which finished at 2pm Wednesday.

Senator Fai'ivae Iuli Alex Godinet said a big problem with the search had been the length of time getting the patrol boat to Utumea from its base at Fagatogo.

If there had been a boat based at nearby Leone they would have found the cousins well before the search period was up, he said.

It may not have saved their lives but it would have given closure to the families, Fai'ivae said.

Speaking from Leone, the senator said there had been a commitment made in the fono four years ago to build a boat ramp there but this had not happened.

"It only takes about 10-minutes from here to go to where it's happened. It takes almost 45-minutes to an hour for the boat to come from Fagatogo to there (Utumea) and when they're low on fuel they have to go back there and come back so it takes another two to two and a half hours."

There had been a warning in place because of rough sea conditions the day the cousins disappeared.

The families of Alex Peric and Anthony Leota were yesterday maintaining a vigil at Utumea beach as a coastguard vessel searched off-shore.

Congresswoman Aumua Amata issued the following statement:

Ia faamafanafana le Atua i aiga ma maua e i latou le filemu, o uo, a'oga, afioaga ma ekalesia. Ua ou tu'ufesili pe aisea-- ma o se mea masani lava lea tatou te manatu ai-- ae o ituaso fa'apea, e le mafai e upu ona tali ma maua ai se faamafanafanaga moni, na o le Atua e maua ai. Ou te ofoina atu alofa'aga mo nei aiga e pei ona lagona e le toatele. Ia tatou tatalo faatasi i nei taimi o puapuaga.

Our hearts are broken at the loss of these young lives. May the God of all comfort come to these families, and somehow bring some peace to them and all who knew these young men, their school, this village and their church. I find myself asking why — and it’s natural for all of us to do that — but in these times, our words cannot bring those answers or true comfort; only God can do that. I send these families the love everyone is feeling for them. May this sadness bring our people together in prayer.