Guma Aguiar: Missing millionaire's fishing boat followed strange course during final voyage

A boat captain assisting with a nighttime ocean burial sees a 31-foot boat speeding out of Port Everglades Inlet so fast it goes airborne over the waves.

The boat follows a mysterious, shark fin-shaped course – it travels northeast to 4 miles offshore, then turns abruptly and begins to drift back to shore.

Workers at the Elbo Room watch with increasing wonder as they realize that the boat moving slowly toward the beach is a ghost ship with no one aboard.

Police on Thursday released these details from witness accounts and a U.S. Coast Guard analysis of the T.T. Zion's GPS trail.

Police still can't say whether they believe the flamboyant Aguiar is dead or alive.

"No one can say what happened," said Fort Lauderdale Police Sgt. Steven Novak. "He is still considered a missing person."

Aguiar struggled with mental health, was plagued by massive lawsuits that threatened his $100 million fortune and had a turbulent marriage.

"If he did stage his disappearance, someone with his means could be difficult to find," Novak said. "And that's a big if."

Though there have been local sightings of Aguiar reported to police, none was confirmed, the homicide sergeant said.

"We're getting a lot fewer calls on this one than we typically do in a case like this," Novak said.

Aguiar vanished on June 19. At 7 p.m., home surveillance video captured the married father of four, 35, steering the T.T. Zion away from his private dock in the tony Rio Vista Isles section of Fort Lauderdale.

There was a small craft warning for area waters and the T.T. Zion may have met 17 mph winds and ocean waves of up to 5 feet, as isolated thunderstorms threatened.

The boat captain who spotted Aguiar's vessel speeding out of the inlet told police he saw just one man aboard.

The Coast Guard says the T.T. Zion's GPS system was turned on at 7:29 p.m., while the boat was 2.5 miles off Fort Lauderdale beach.

As the boat headed northeast at 17 mph, it slowed to 8 mph during small turns. At other times, it reached speeds of up to 31 mph.

The boat turned southeast and at 7:56 p.m., it slowed to less than 1 mph and was 4 miles offshore, where the ocean is about 600 feet deep.

Then, "There was a dramatic deceleration and change of course, back toward land," Novak said of the boat's path.

Its path curved west and drifted, south and west, at 3 mph or less for five hours.

"It never stops until it hits the sand," Novak said. "Even when it slowed down to less than 2 mph, it was still moving about 80 feet per minute."

At the end of the ghost vessel's strange cruise, police said employees at Fort Lauderdale's Elbo Room beachfront bar saw it approaching the surf.

As ocean swells pushed it closer, Novak said, "They realized there was nobody on it."

The T.T. Zion came ashore around 1:15 a.m. June 20, its lights and ignition on. The throttles were forward, in gear, and there was fuel in the tanks, but the engines were not running, Novak said.

"It could have stalled," he said.

The investor's cigarettes, wallet and cellphone were found in a dry box on board, and a T-shirt and flip-flops were also left behind.

The tie bar that connected the boat's twin outboard engines was broken. If the tie bar had come unattached while the boat was traveling fast, the twin engines would not have worked in harmony, and a sharp turn could pitch a boater overboard.

Novak is not prepared to say if that was Aguiar's fate.

There was no sign of foul play, police said, and all the T.T. Zion's life vests were accounted for.

"Remember," Novak said, "with a lot of people who fall off of cruise ships, those bodies aren't often recovered, either."

The police investigation continues. Novak said aspects of Aguiar's life, including his finances and iPhone, are still being reviewed.

"We're checking all angles and looking at everything," he said.

Yacht company president Bob Denison is a friend of Aguiar's since high school and said he last spoke with him a few weeks before his disappearance.

"He seemed pretty confused," Denison said recently.

He described Aguiar as "extremely athletic and a very determined person," and is skeptical that he was tossed into the sea.

"We used to spend time on boats together," Denison said. "It's really bizarre to me, the whole thing. I can't imagine him being thrown from the boat or not being able to swim back. He's one of the most creative and smart people I know."

Aguiar's $2.1 million yacht and the $5 million mansion he shared with his wife, Jamie, may be sold if a probate court approves her request.

His holdings are worth an estimated $100 million, and are being sorted out by a newly appointed conservator.

Meanwhile, Aguiar's personal troubles await his

return.

In April, Jamie Aguiar, 33, sought a judge's opinion on whether the couple's prenuptial agreement misrepresented his worth.

Aguiar filed for divorce in 2011, but withdrew the petition. After an arrest that year on domestic violence charges, he pleaded no contest and was on probation when he went missing.

He was diagnosed as bipolar, his mother, Ellen Aguiar, has said, and was institutionalized twice for treatment.

While various parties continue their battles over Aguiar's money in federal and state courts, his four children, ages 10 months to 7 years, don't have their father at home.

Said Denison, "Anybody that really, really has known Guma for a long time is holding out hope that he is still alive out there. Not to say he is hiding out on some island. I just really want the guy to be alive."

He said his friend loves fishing off his dock and rooting for the Miami Heat.

"When Guma is really Guma, he's the best dad in the world, and drove his kids to school in the mornings," Denison said. "It would be tragic for those kids to live without a father."


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