Search continues for missing boaters in Gulf, two confirmed dead

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MOBILE, Ala. (WHNT) - The U.S. Coast Guard continues to search for several missing boaters around Mobile Bay after a patch of severe weather disrupted a sailing regatta Saturday afternoon.

Coast Guard officials said they responded to a report of multiple capsized vessels around 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Two response boats, an airplane and two helicopters were deployed to search for the missing people.

That response continues to ramp up.  Two people have been confirmed dead, and teams continue to look for at least three others.  Not all of the missing people were participating in the Dauphin Island regatta, which included more than 100 sailboats and as many as 200 people.

Major Steve Thompson with the Alabama Department of Public Safety's Marine Patrol Division says one person was found dead Saturday and a second was found Sunday morning.

The race was scheduled to start in the middle of the bay, north of the Middle Bay Lighthouse and east of the Mobile Bay Ship Channel. From there, they were to proceed to Dauphin Island, eventually ending the first leg of the course at the headquarters of the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo.  Around 4 p.m., wind gusts as strong as 59 mph swept across areas of Fairhope, according to the National Weather Service.

"Apparently there were a number of vessels that became distressed, either capsized or what have you. There were scattered anywhere from Dauphin Island Bridge all the way out into Mobile Bay and across to Fort Morgan. It was a wide area," Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier told our news partners at "When the storm came through the sailboats were in varying places -- all the way from Dauphin Island to Middle Bay Lighthouse."

"In a combined effort, multi-agency responders have covered more than 2,500 square miles searching for survivors and we will continue to do so tonight," said Capt. Duke Walker, Commander, Coast Guard Sector Mobile.  "We are very grateful for the continued assistance of state, local agencies and Good Samaritans who helped individuals in distress.  Because of these combined efforts, over 40 people were rescued throughout this case."

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