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Tuesday, October 2, 2001

Search for transatlantic rower(62) is called off

By Declan Fahy

A search for a 62 year-old lone transatlantic rower whose vessel sent a distress signal 230 miles west of Valencia Island was called off yesterday evening.

However, the wife of the missing man, retired US cardiologist Dr Nenad Belic, has asked the Ocean Rowing Society, based in London, for their help in finding someone in Ireland to try and locate her husband.

 The Aer Corps marine patrol aircraft took over the search early yesterday from three RAF Nimrod planes which had been searching in shifts the area of the distress signal.

Falmouth coastguard in the UK, which is directing the search, said there has been no sign of the 20ft boat, the Lun, or its occupant.

An RAF Nimrod had located a flashing light at the location of the distress signal in the early hours of yesterday morning. A lifeboat was lowered, but nothing was found.

 Weather conditions in the area were severe yesterday, with gale-force winds and rough seas.

At the time the distress signal was sent, Valencia coastguard described weather conditions as "exceptionally bad for a 20 ft boat".

 Falmouth coastguard said no debris had been found and there was a possibility the beacon which sent the signal could have been washed overboard, but this was "a long shot".

 Dr Belic, who was born in the former Yugoslavia, shunned publicity when he started his voyage in May from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in the north east of the US. He had hoped to reach Europe, Portugal in particular, a trip which he expected to last two months.

 "He wanted no sponsorship... nobody telling him what to do, nobody telling him what should be on the boat," said Mr Steve Najjar, of Redwood City, California, who manufactured the Lun.

"He also wanted no publicity he said we can do publicity afterwards. It's really a personal quest," Mr Najjar told the Chicago Sun Times.

 Dr Belic, a married father of four, had estimated to have spent $50,000 of his own money to prepare for the trip.

Transatlantic rowers have previously ended up near Ireland, because of winds and currents, "and this is exactly what happened with Nenad Belic", said Mr Kenneth Crutchlow, executive secretary of the Ocean Rowers Society.

 He said he was contacted by Ms Belic after the search was stood down.


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