The U.S. Coast Guard and state environmental officials believe two people reported missing off the coast of Groton were using a University of Connecticut sailboat.

Spencer Mugford, 21, and 20-year-old Sofia McKenna were reported missing on Sunday.

The last anyone heard from them was a Snapchat message that was posted around 2 a.m. on Sunday. It appeared to show Mugford and McKenna paddling on some kind of craft at the time.

Officials said at first, the pair was reported as missing "kayakers." However, the Snapchat message had investigators thinking the craft was more of a paddleboat.

The families weren't aware of any craft that the pair owned.

After a 71 hour search, the Coast Guard said it found a piece from a 14-foot sailboat in the Long Island town of Orient. It believes that was the vessel being used by the pair.

"21 different agencies to conduct an exhausting search over 2,025 square miles of water and 71 continuous search hours," U.S. Coast Guard Commander Andrew Ely said.

The Coast Guard said the boat belonged to the University of Connecticut Avery Point. It believes Mugford was a student there.

UConn, however, said Mugford was no longer a student there as of April 20.

The search for Mugford and McKenna wasn't initiated until around 5 p.m. on Sunday.

McKenna's boyfriend, Austin Parrow, told Channel 3 on Monday that she liked to sleep in, so concern didn't start to mount until Sunday afternoon.

Parrow said he texted and called, but received no response.

He took his concerns to McKenna's mother, who said she also couldn't get ahold of her daughter.

That's when police were called.

They found McKenna's car at Avery Point in Groton on Tuesday night.

Monday, the piece of the sailboat was discovered along Long Island.

The Coast Guard said the discovery allows them to concentrate on a smaller area for the search.

From Oct. 1 to May 31, anyone operating a man-powered boat in the state of Connecticut must have a life vest.

Commander Ely said whenever a missing boater is found, they are debriefed, and many times, if not all the time, people attribute life vests to their survival.

"In recent days, many of you have seen and heard the upsetting news that former Avery Point student Spencer Mugford and an acquaintance have been reported missing in Long Island Sound. I want to make sure you know we are aware of and monitoring this distressing situation, and that our hearts and thoughts are with Spencer's family and friends," said Annemarie Seifert, Campus Director at UConn Avery Point, in a statement.

Avery Point is offering resources for students struggling with the news.

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


Digital Content Producer

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