Family and friends of two Gaston County cousins lost off the North Carolina coast are putting together their own private navy of fishing and charter boats to help in the search.
The effort has so far collected 30 privately owned boats to join the U.S. Coast Guard in searching for Steve Chaney and David Hambrick. The two have been missing since Sunday. Chaney is from the Belmont area and Hambrick lives in Stanley.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to pay for fuel needed by the volunteer searchers, said Dana Keener, Hambrick’s sister-in-law. The campaign had raised nearly $12,000 toward its $20,000 goal by Thursday morning.
Keener says they’re looking for as many boaters as possible to join the search, which began Wednesday.
Family friend Tangela Moss of Oak Island is helping to coordinate the flotilla of searchers. Moss started the GoFundMe campaign.
“We will fuel many boats to keep the search going until we bring these guys home,” said Moss on her GoFundMe account.
Moss told TV station WWAY that their effort will search both the waters off Oak Island and the shoreline. She is asking neighboring islands and beaches south of Oak Island to do the same.
“If they are adrift, they will be drifting that way, so our hope is the rest of the fishing community will pick up as they go down,” Moss said to WWAY.
The two men got underway aboard a 22-foot fishing boat at about 11:30 a.m. Sunday from the South Harbor Boat Ramp in Oak Island, Coast Guard officials said in a press release. The wife of one of the men called for help after they did not return by dark, as expected.
Coast Guard authorities told the Wilmington Star News that they found a truck and boat trailer belonging to one of the men parked in the ramp lot.
The Coast Guard has not offered any updates since Monday.
The Gaston Gazette reported this week that Chaney works at the U.S. Leisure outdoor furniture manufacturing plant in Stanley and Hambrick is a supervisor at Fontaine Modification in Charlotte.
Hambrick and Chaney are avid fishermen, reported the Gazette, and Hambrick recently purchased a vacation home on Oak Island.