TAVERNIER -- A private rescue team has been hired to search for seven people who went missing on a wooden sailboat somewhere in the Tasman Sea.
Tavernier residents David Dyche III, 58, wife Rosemary Dyche, 60, and their 17-year-old son David IV left Opua, New Zealand, May 28 on board a 70-foot sailboat Nina bound for Newcastle, Australia, a 1,250 nautical mile trip.
The elder Dyche, who grew up in the Upper Keys, attended Coral Shores High School and worked at Gilbert's Resort.
Rescue crews were alerted that the boat was missing June 14, but were not initally concerned since the boat's emergency beacon was never activated.
But later, Neville Blackmore, of New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre, told the Associated Press a likely conclusion was the boat sank rapidly, not giving the crew enough time to activate the beacon.
New Zealand Rescues called off its search July 6, leaving friends and family to turn to a private rescue team out of Texas, which began searching 12 days later.
Tim Miller, director of Texas Equusearch, said he believes the Nina is off course and adrift, according to his company's website. Raising money to encourage New Zealand to consider resuming its air search is a focus, he says.
A message made public earlier this month shows the crew complaining of shredded sails from a storm on July 1.
"Sails shredded last night, now bare poles. Going 4KT, 310 deg. will update course info at 6 p.m.," read the message that was never received by rescue groups.
Friends of the crew believe their emergency beacon was damaged and couldn't be activated.
Using social media, fundraising efforts have begun to pay for the private search.
Also on the boat was Evi Nemeth, 73, Matthew Wooton, 35, of the United Kingdom, Kyle Jackson, 27, of Nebraska, and Danielle Wright, 19, of Baton Rouge.
In addition to raising more than $100,000 for the search, friends have also painted their fingers and toes blue to show support for the Nina crew.
To donate or gather more information on search efforts, those interested should visit www.facebook.com/ninarescue.