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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Search for URI students continues on Narragansett Bay

Media Contact: URI Communications, 401-874-2116

5:50 p.m.

Narragansett, R.I. -- March 13, 2006 -- The U.S. Coast Guard and law enforcement agencies from around the state continue to search for three University of Rhode Island students in the West Passage of Narragansett Bay. The Coast Guard plans an active search until tomorrow morning, although unusually heavy fog has precluded continuation of the air search this evening (3/13/2006).

State agencies and small rescue boats will remain in the area and continue the search. As the water temperature is 40 degrees, the Coast Guard has said that survivability is limited.

All from Rhode Island, the missing students have been identified as Geoffrey M. Wilkes of Glocester, Daniel P. Donahue of Glocester, and Fandia Shloul of Pawtucket. The University is providing counseling for family members and friends.

At 4 a.m. a URI security officer heard voices on the water while patrolling in the area of the University’s research vessel, the Endeavor. The security officer called to the group, but could not see the individuals because of thick fog.

The security officer called URI and Narragansett Police, who notified the Coast Guard, which began the search at 5:30 a.m.

Police said the fishing vessel Relentless, which was traveling back to Quonset, reported a hazard to navigation, possibly a piece of dock.

Police said the students were at a small party at a Bonnet Shores home in Narragansett when they left at about 2:30 a.m. They left in a small boat equipped with two oars, but no lifejackets. Police said friends attempted to prevent them from leaving.

The Coast Guard located an empty boat at about 5:50 a.m.

Since dawn, the Coast Guard has searched the waters of the West Passage, and it deployed three small boats. A 41-foot vessel from the Castle Hill station in Newport and a 47-foot vessel from Pt. Judith are also part of the search. A Coast Guard helicopter from its air station on Cape Cod also joined the search.

Narragansett Police joined the search with their patrol boat.

The Rhode Island State Police have deployed a boat equipped with sonar, and a dive team, while the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Police have three boats, one equipped with sonar in the search as well.

URI Ocean Engineering Professor Malcolm Spaulding, an expert on ocean currents, has also provided computer models to assist in the search.