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The U.S. Coast Guard on Friday suspended the search for Luciano Mercenari, the 29-year-old Biscayne resident who went missing Monday after paddleboarding.

“Suspending an active search and rescue case is never an easy decision, and so it is with heavy hearts that we offer our sincere condolences to Mr. Mercenari’s family and friends,” said Capt. Chris Cederholm, commanding officer, Coast Guard Sector Miami. “We are grateful to our local and state partners for their assistance in this united effort,” he said in a statement.

Key Biscayne Police Chief Frank Sousa said he met with family members Thursday night to inform them of the decision, telling them that “just because search and rescue efforts cease, it doesn’t mean we stop looking. We have a boat out in the water every day.”

The Coast Guard said searchers covered more than 2,200 square miles, an area about the size of the state of Delaware, with 67 asset hours. Locally, friends of the family have been organizing searches by volunteers. Sousa said there is a concern, however, that volunteers could expose themselves to injury.

“It’s amazing that they have this army of resources,” he said, “but you don’t want to be in a position where now we have to stop what we’re doing to help one of them because there is a distress call.”

Thursday, at least 300 people tuned into Zoom for a community prayer session Thursday Mercenari. The session reached capacity and at one point had 1,743 followers.

Mercenari was introduced as “one of our own” as Class of 2014 by Milly Beltran of Immaculata-La High School, the prayer’s host. 

Mercenari’s paddleboard was found far offshore — 8 to 11 miles — between Miami and Fort Lauderdale Tuesday evening, according to the U.S Coast Guard. The boater also found a “dry bag belonging to the overdue paddleboarder,” the post added.

A boater who had seen the news about the vigorous helicopter and boat search for Luciano Mercenari found Mercenari’s paddle board on Tuesday evening.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Mercenari wore a light-gray, long-sleeved shirt and gray sports shorts, according to a missing flier posted by the Coast Guard on X, formerly Twitter. He has short cut, dark-brown hair and a short shave.

This story has been updated

BIILY JEAN LOUIS is the senior editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. A native of Port Au Prince, Haiti, Jean Louis  has worked for Bloomberg and the Baltimore Sun. He is a corps member of Report for America

BIILY JEAN LOUIS is the senior editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. A native of Port Au Prince, Haiti, Jean Louis  has worked for Bloomberg and the Baltimore Sun. He is a corps member of Report for...