CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. -- The boat of a North Carolina man missing for seven months has washed ashore in the Azores Islands, officials announced Monday.
Joseph Matthew Johnson has not been found, Carolina Beach police said in a news release. The 44-year-old resident of Carolina Beach was last seen leaving Federal Point Yacht Club marina on Nov. 22 on his boat, police said. He was reported missing five days later by a friend who arrived in town for a previously arranged fishing trip, police said.
Video surveillance from the marina where he lived on Nov. 22 shows the boat leaving and the last ping from Johnson's cellphone was from off the coast of Bald Head Island at 5:17 p.m. that same day, Sgt. Colby Edens said by telephone Monday.
The U.S. Coast Guard's search for Johnson in November covered nearly 7,500 square miles, but it was suspended when no new information was found, news outlets reported.
Last week, authorities in So Jorge Island, a small island in the Azores, contacted Carolina Beach police when they discovered a 2006 Clearwater fishing boat that washed ashore was registered to Johnson, police said in a news release. The island, part of a mid-Atlantic archipelago about 800 miles west of Portugal, is more than 2,700 miles from Carolina Beach.
When the boat was found on June 21, it had a heavy buildup of barnacles and algae, indicating that it had been capsized at sea for quite some time, Edens said.
Portuguese authorities are helping the Carolina Beach police department as they gather evidence and continue their search for Johnson.
Johnson's mother, Mary Kay Anderson, said his family is confident he will be found alive, The StarNews reported. The retired U.S. Army Special Forces soldier served for 24 years with tours in Afghanistan and South America, so Anderson said she believes he has the skills to survive in dangerous conditions and elements.
"It's not just hope," Anderson said. "We know he's alive and are praying for his miraculous rescue."