Coast Guard Calls Off Search For Missing Chicago Snorkeler After 4 Days

Coast Guard Calls Off Search For Missing Chicago Snorkeler After 4 Days

SAN JUAN — The Coast Guard suspended a four-day search for a missing snorkeler Saturday evening, pending further developments, in waters extending from Vieques to the main island of Puerto Rico.

Still missing is Joanna Rebis, 38, from Chicago, Illinois; last seen at 1 p.m. Wednesday on the “Punta Arenas” shoreline in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

 “Unfortunately we did not find Ms. Rebis, despite the extensive search efforts from all responding agencies,” said Lt. Cmdr. Alberto Martinez, Search and Rescue Mission coordinator for the case.  “We remain hopeful that one day we may come to know more about the circumstances that led to her disappearance.  For people vacationing in Puerto Rico or just enjoying a day at the beach, we highly encourage you monitor the sea state and heed any warning signs for dangerous rip currents.  Most of the beaches in Puerto Rico are open water beaches and do not have lifeguards, having someone looking out for you in case of a distress situation could just save your life or the life of a loved one.”   

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer initially informed watchstanders at Sector San Juan at 7:15p.m. Wednesday of a missing snorkeler in Vieques Island.

Coast Guard air and surface assets involved in the search conducted a combined total of 27 air and surface searches covering  2,391 square nautical miles, an area approximately one-third the size of Puerto Rico.  

Coast Guard Calls Off Search For Missing Chicago Snorkeler After 4 Days

Two friends, including Monika Luterek, posted on Facebook regarding Joanna’s disappearance off of Vieques.

“We have a GoPro camera used on that day,” Luterek said. “The camera was found on Saturday eight feet away from the shore…but police from Puerto Rico still did not open it…”

“Hi, my name is Cindy, I’m Joanna Rebis friend, who is missing since December 8th, last time she was seen, she was doing snorkeling in the beach “Punta Arenas” in Vieques Puerto Rico around 1 pm. The Coast Guard is constantly communicating with the family; we received help from Vieques Emergency Management command, who has been searching as well, giving us a continuous update and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of whom I’m incredibly grateful for their help and support. What we are struggling to get is any information from the police. Two people that were snorkeling in the area this Saturday 11th found my friends GoPro. They haven’t even turned it on to at least have any evidence of the latest photograph or video that was taken from the device. Which could be a vital information for the Coast Guards as they told us, she was alone so we can ensure that she got lost in the water. I went today with my friend’s family to the police station in Vieques. They told us that they couldn’t see the images cause the camera had to be picked up from the CIC Police of Fajardo that that investigation doesn’t belong to them. And the person that is supposed to pick it up is on leave until Wednesday.  We are scared, we are disoriented, and we don’t understand why an emergency case is being delayed having evidence in their hands.  I’m sharing this information to ask for help; if you have any contact here in Puerto Rico that can help us out with the case, or any procedure that the family should follow, please contact us 773 379 0615. in case this is relevant Joanna has double nationality, she is a US Citizen and Polish.  The only entity that is reporting that they are actively searching for Joanna is the Coast Guards, the other two mentioned before finished their search based on the location. Please help us out to find Joanna; please share this information with anyone you think could help Joanna’s family, Thank you.”

Coast Guard assets involved in the search were:

  • Coast Guard Cutter Reef Shark
  • Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos
  • Coast Guard MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters from Air Station Borinquen
  • Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry Aircraft from Air Station Clearwater, Florida.
  • Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Air Station Clearwater, Florida.

Units and personnel from Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action, the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Bureau and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also participated in the search.

Anyone with any information on this case should contact the Coast Guard Sector San Juan Command Center at 787-289-2041.