The U.S. Coast Guard on March 3 ended its search for Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper and two other men missing in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast since Feb. 28, according to published reports.
Cooper, right, former 49ers defensive end Corey Smith, William Bleakley and Nick Schuyler reportedly departed Clearwater, Florida, for a fishing trip the morning of Feb. 28 and failed to return, as planned, that night. One survivor was found.
Cooper, 26, Smith, 29, and Bleakley, 25, have been missing since the 21-foot Everglades boat capsized in rough seas Feb. 28.
A friend of Cooper’s reportedly notified the Coast Guard around 1:30 a.m. EST on March 1 of the missing boat. The information prompted a search that ultimately covered 24,000 square miles and lasted three days.
Coast Guard Capt. Timothy M. Close told reporters at an evening news conference March 3 in Clearwater, Florida, that searchers weren’t able to find the men despite an all-out effort.
“It’s been approximately 60 hours since we got the initial phone call,’’ Capt. Close said. “We’re extremely confident that if there were any survivors on the surface of the water, we would have found them.”
Close’s announcement came a little more than 24 hours after the Coast Guard rescued Schuyler, 24, about 38 miles west of the Florida coast. Schuyler was found sitting atop the hull of the overturned 21-foot, single-engine boat owned by Cooper.
The Raiders issued a statement the evening of March 3:
“We continue to hold out hope that Marquis Cooper, Will Bleakley and Corey Smith will be located and rescued," the statement said.
“However, with the Coast Guard’s decision to cease search-and-rescue efforts, we are faced with the reality that this mission may not turn out the way that we all desire.
“Again, the Raiders would like to express our deep appreciation to all involved in the search-and-rescue efforts. We also wish to express gratitude to everyone around the world who has offered their support. We ask everyone to continue to remember these men and their families in their thoughts and prayers.”
Cooper played in eight games for the Raiders during the 2008 season after being signed midway through the season. The former University of Washington standout reportedly was awarded two game balls during his one-half season with Oakland.
"He became a huge part of what we were doing," Raiders coach Tom Cable said of Cooper at a news conference in Alameda, Calif. on March 4. "And in that light, he became a leader, became someone people drew to. When you watch him walk in the building, in the locker room, or go out to the field, he had that glow about him. … That attitude and that honorable approach, if you will, to what this game is, certainly rubbed off on everybody."
Cooper also played for Tampa Bay, Seattle, Jacksonville and Pittsburgh during his five-year NFL career.
Contra Costa Times