James and Kevin Bamper likely fell from north jetty while fishing, according to sheriff

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. -- Investigators with the Martin County Sheriffs Office believe they have a better idea of what happened to Kevin and James Bamper, a father and son who haven't been seen since they were fishing last week.

Investigators now believe they were fishing at the north jetty near sailfish point when something went wrong.

Sheriff William Snyder says the rocks at the jetty can be extremely slippery, and it's likely that either one, or both of the Bampers fell from the jetty and into the ocean.

Snyder says they were both last seen by another fisherman Wednesday night of last week, around 9 o'clock. He says another witness saw their abandoned fishing gear around 5:30 the next morning.

Investigators say the current could have carried their bodies to the Indian River Lagoon, where one body was found earlier this week. The sheriffs office is still waiting for an official DNA confirmation for the identity of that body, but believe it to be one of the Bampers.

The sheriffs office searched Thursday for a second body, or any other clues. Boats searched the floor of the river, while a helicopter scoured from above. Paddleboarders were searching in the mangroves.

"There is a possibility that one of the victims washed out into the ocean. We cannot exclude the possibility that an incoming tide brought the body back into the river and is somewhere in the mangroves," Snyder said.

While search efforts Thursday did not provide any new evidence, Snyder says someone came forward with James Bamper's wallet, saying they found it near the jetty last week.

Neither of them have been seen, and their cell phones have not been used.

"We're telling the family that this is a tragedy, that our hearts go out to them we wish it weren't so. But, with the information that we have it does appear that both of the victims are gone," Snyder said.

Snyder says investigators are hoping to recover the abandoned fishing equipment to secure the theory that this was a fishing accident.

Until a second body is found, the sheriff says search efforts will continue by boat and in the air. The focus, however, will switch mainly to the ocean, Snyder said.

A missing person report was never filed for James or Kevin Bamper.

Snyder says it's possible they will find a second body during mini lobster season when there are more boaters and divers in the water.
 


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