This is a breaking news story and will be updated
Well-known Canadian underwater filmmaker and conservationist, Rob Stewart, has been declared missing from the Florida Keys since Tuesday.
Stewart, 37, was diving with a small group on the Queen of Nassau wreck near Alligator Reef off Lower Matecumbe Key at a depth of around 70 metres. It is believed that both Stewart and his buddy resurfaced around 5pm. His buddy got onto the dive boat and passed out. When the boat crew went to retrieve Stewart, he was nowhere to be seen. According to Sea Shepherd, the crew believe Stewart may have also passed out and floated off. Both divers were using closed-circuit rebreathers, mainly to reduce bubbles when filming wildlife.
The Coast Guard reported that the U.S. Navy, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office were all involved in the search. A 10-metre fast-response boat and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter are also being used. Conditions on the water and in the air were to said to be favourable on Wednesday morning, with good visibility.
Coast Guard Senior Chief Nyx Cangemi says crews have not stopped looking since they were called out. “As long as there’s a chance of survival, we’re going to search,” Cangemi said in an interview. “We remain hopeful that we’ll be able to find him alive.”
Stewart was said to be filming an installment of his Sharkwater documentary series, a series he heads that has become well known for helping to protect sharks, change government policy, and inspire the creation of shark conservation groups. It is considered by film critics as one of conservation’s success stories, and brought to light many pressing issues regarding shark finning, overfishing, and attitudes towards sharks.
“When last seen, Rob was wearing a drysuit,” said Sea Shepherd founder, Captain Paul Watson, in a status update on Facebook. “Hopefully, the drysuit will keep him afloat, but the fear is that he sank near where he was last seen. Divers with deep water experience are participating in the search.”
In the meantime, Stewart’s colleagues and family are asking for the local diving, fishing, boating and flying communities for their help. There is also a fundraising page for Rob Stewart’s search and rescue.