Groton search suspended despite 'hull' discovery

The U.S. Coast Guard continued to search for Spencer Mugford, 21, and his girlfriend, Sofia McKenna, 20, on Monday morning near Avery Point. (Coast Guard/WFSB)

Officials suspended a search for two missing paddleboarders Monday night as darkness began to fall.

Throughout the day both the Coast Guard and the State Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Air Force Auxiliary flew multiple missions along the Connecticut and Long Island coastlines and the Long Island Sound in a combined search and rescue effort.

A U.S. Coast Guard cutter was spotted just off of Avery Point searching for 21-year-old Spencer Mugford and 20-year-old Sofia McKenna on Monday.

The Coast Guard along with state and local agencies searched for a total of 71 hours and saturated a 2025 square-mile area to locate the two missing people in the water.

On Monday afternoon, U.S. Coast Guard Cdr. Andrew Ely told Channel 3 that the piece from a 14ft. sailboat was found in Long Island, in the town of Orient, belonged to the missing pair.

"We can look at how the vessel would have drifted to get there, and that allows us to find a smaller area to search," explained Cdr. Andrew Ely. "So we’re using this new data to narrow down our search area and be more focused."

The two were last seen on the social media app SnapChat around 2 a.m. on Sunday. The Coast Guard said the SnapChat photo showed Mugford and Sofia McKenna, who officials thought were paddleboarding at that time.

Also around that time, Sofia McKenna's mother said she received several missed phone calls between 2:05 a.m. and 2:09 a.m.

“Seven calls, but no message," said Michelle McKenna, Sofia McKenna's mother. "I had voicemail. She could have left a message. [They were] all hang-ups.”

Michelle McKenna told Channel 3 that she believed it was her daughter calling from Mugford's phone.

“Around 2 a.m. a Snapchat was sent out by Spencer, they were on a paddleboard," Michelle McKenna said. "From what we can assume from the picture, Sofia is the one who took the picture. It was of his back.”

She said her daughter would have had to manually dial her mother's phone number.

"Spencer didn’t know my phone number," Michelle McKenna said. "I don’t know if he fell off and she panicked.”

Her longtime boyfriend, Austin Parrow, said they had plans to spend Memorial Day together.

“I know she likes to sleep in, so I figured 'okay, 1:00 hit, I didn’t think much of it,'" Parrow told Channel 3.

"As it was getting later in the afternoon, I wasn't getting any texts from her. I tried texting her, it was sending as green text messages. Not an iMessage. I was calling her, it was going straight to voicemail. That’s when I texted her mother, asked what was going on. She said she hadn’t spoken to her.”

Groton city police and firefighters started the search around 5 p.m. on Sunday and it continued through the night.

The Coast Guard out of New London and New Haven joined. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and state police have also been assisting.

“Because we had a picture that appeared to be near the New London area, we started looking in the New London area," said Cdr. Andrew Ely, U.S. Coast Guard.

"We searched Ledge Light, the lighthouse at the mouth of the harbor. We looked at all the bogeys in the water that people could hang onto, all the boats in the water, searching along the shorelines.”

Officials said Sofia McKenna's car was found at Avery Point on Sunday. Authorities expanded the search to the north shore of Long Island on Monday.

The Coast Guard has been using computer modeling to figure out where the two may have gone. State police said they planned to use sonar to scan the water.

At one point, Channel 3 learned that 14 government agency boats and a helicopter were looking for Mugford and Sofia McKenna. The CT State Police dive boat has also been in place, as well as divers, in case they are needed.

Until then, Michelle McKenna and Parrow asked for thoughts and prayers.

“I’d like to thank everybody for doing what they’re doing to look for them," Michelle McKenna said. "We hope they’re okay.”

Anyone with information is asked to call 203-468-4401.

Refresh this page and watch Channel 3 for updates.

Copyright 2018 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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