A recently married mother of a 9-month-old baby is lost at sea under suspicious circumstances.
According to the Palm Beach Post, Isabella Hellman’s husband of three months reported her missing on May 15 after he said he was awakened when the private 37-foot catamaran they were on hit something. When he went up to the deck from the sleeping quarters below, he said there was no sign of Isabella and the boat appeared to be sinking.
Lewis Bennett then says he left the boat and boarded a life raft. The Coast Guard reportedly discovered him at about 4:30 that morning in 4,000 foot-deep water, 1,000 yards from the boat.
The catamaran was about 70 miles south of Key West. Lewis Bennett told authorities the couple had been on a two-week vacation and had sailed from Havana Harbor at about 5:30 p.m. the previous day. He said his wife was wearing a life preserver when he last saw her at 8 p.m. before retiring below deck.
According to the newspaper, the catamaran remains partially submerged, and the Coast Guard has not been able to corroborate Mr. Bennett’s claim that the boat struck something.
Coast Guard Miami spokesman Eric Woodall told the Palm Beach Post that responders has examiner the boat “the best they could from the surface” and could not determine what, if anything, the boat had struck. He also said that because no one has entered the boat, citing safety hazards, the Coast Guard could not rule out the possibility that Mrs. Hellman was still on the boat, while adding that he does not believe that to be the case.
Woodall said that deep scratches were visible on the catamaran, and that the Coast Guard has not plans to move the vessel. He could not confirm the boat’s current location as the electronic beacon used to track the boat had stopped working.
The Coast Guard reportedly suspended the search for Isabella Hellman, a Delray Beach real estate broker, on May 18.
“Suspending a search is never an easy call to make and was made with deep consideration in this tragic case,” Capt. Aldante Vinciguerra, chief of response for the Coast Guard’s Seventh District, told the Palm Beach Post on May 19.
On Thursday, the Coast Guard confirmed to the Palm Beach Post that the FBI had joined the missing persons investigation, while an FBI representative said only, “We are aware of this matter and will respond accordingly.”
Neither agency would tell the newspaper if foul play is being considered.
Lewis Bennett told WPTV News Channel 5 that he was traveling to Cuba to get his own boat and continue the search for his wife independently.
Photo: WBTV screenshot