The U.S. Coast Guard and the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol have officially suspended their search for 25-year-old Santa Barbara City College student Richard Keppi, who has been missing after a catamaran he was in with his brother flipped Wednesday evening off the shore of Leadbetter Beach because of high winds.
An extensive search involving three Harbor Patrol vessels, helicopters and jet skis began almost immediately after the catamaran flipped around 6:30 p.m. and continued until about 6 a.m. the next day, when a new shift of personnel searched. But as the time passes, officials say the search area has expanded , making it more difficult to pinpoint certain areas for rescue recovery. “The time frame from which the incident occurred is now almost 48 hours,” said Waterfront Director John Bridley. “After a period of time like that the search area expands so greatly. Given the conditions, the focus of the search is no longer effective.” The search area, considering the weather and water conditions, could literally be from Ventura to Gaviota at this point, Bridley suggested. Rescuers had to deal with extremely rough and windy conditions that produced large swell conditions for most of the night Wednesday and during the day Thursday.
“It’s tragic,” Bridley said. “We believe we’ve done everything we can do.”
Keppi’s brother, Thibault, along with several friends and family, have continued the search for Richard, despite the ceasing of the official search.