Coast Guard continues search for man with Macon ties

Coast Guard crews began a third day of searching this morning for a missing sailboat and its four crew members, including the son of Pat Topping, the head of the Macon Economic Development Authority.

Patrick Topping, 39, is among the crew members of the missing sailboat. The crew sent a distress signal early Monday morning during violent seas off the southern North Carolina coast.

Helicopter and boat crews have searched more than 38,000 square nautical miles, or nearly 50,000 square miles, for the 54-foot "Flying Colours" since the last signal indicated the boat was about 120 miles southeast of Cape Lookout, Coast Guard officials said. The sailboat is based in Washington, D.C., and was traveling from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands to Annapolis, Md.

"The search continues to expand," said Petty Officer Larry Chambers, adding that the crew may have turned off the distress signal and managed to navigate to safety.

"As they days go on, though, we realize it becomes less likely of a possibility," he said.

Andrea, the first named storm of the year, formed Wednesday off the southeastern U.S. coast more than three weeks before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, forecasters said. The storm didn't appear to be much of a threat, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

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