Pilot may have spotted one of 2 missing teen fishermen days after disappearance

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A pilot told FoxNews.com that two days after two Florida teenage fishermen disappeared at sea last summer, he may have spotted one of them desperately signaling for help on a makeshift raft off the coast of Georgia.

Bobby Smith, 63, of Reidsville, Georgia, believes he saw either Austin Stephanos or Perry Cohen with hands raised when his Piper Warrior flew over debris east of St. Marys, Ga., on July 26.

The pilot says this photo shows what he saw off the Georgia coast two days after the teen fishermen vanished. 

“No doubt about it,” Smith told FoxNews.com Friday. “There was a small person lying on that debris.” He described it as two large pieces of Styrofoam lashed together with a bright-colored life vest.

Smith told investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission what he saw during his search for the missing boys. The interview is part of a 128-page investigative report the agency released this week describing the unsuccessful effort to find the boys.

Smith said he flew his plane to about 200 feet above the person and saw him moving. "At that point we realized this person was alive and the next thing I could think of was getting some help," Smith said. 

Smith said he contacted the Coast Guard right away and the Coast Guard arrived within 20 minutes. "The feeling I had when I saw the Coast Guard was, 'Here comes the calvary! This thing's going to be over in a few minutes!'" Smith told FOX 13.

Smith said the sun was glaring off the water, so he lost visual contact with the person, but he stayed within a three mile radius. It wasn't until about 11 o'clock that night that he found out the Coast Guard didn't find anything. "It just, my heart sank. For the next month, I replayed that through my mind," Smith said. 

Smith found the photos on his iPhone that day of the debris that his granddaughter, who was flying with him, had taken of the objects in the water. "There were three photos, taken 10 or 15 seconds apart," Smith said. The photos are too blurry to make out any features, but he has sent them to the Coast Guard to be analyzed.