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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 June 2006, 22:32 GMT 23:32 UK
Search for missing Britons ends
Nova Scotia map
The yacht was last heard from 200 nautical miles south of Halifax
The search for three Britons and an American missing off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, has been called off.

Britons Richard White, 34, Jacek Bielecki, 56, his son Jack, 19, and US citizen Molly Finn, 21, are missing feared dead.

They called for help on Thursday when their yacht was caught in high winds 200 nautical miles south of Halifax.

Debris has been found near where their last distress call was made, but bad weather has hampered the search.

"Suspending a search is one of the hardest decisions," said Rear Admiral David Pekoske, who led the search operation.

The coastguards had worked "around the clock" trying to locate the Free Spirit yacht and its crew, he said.

Massive search effort

The remnants of Tropical Storm Alberto had been causing winds of up to 115mph (185 km/h) and 30ft (9.1m) waves on Thursday.

But conditions had cleared by Friday and the coastguards were able to search more than 6,500 nautical square miles.

Among the debris discovered was a wooden door and a bleach bottle, but coastguards were not able to directly link the items to the Free Spirit.

The US Coastguard also revealed that an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) was recovered by rescuers on Thursday.

They said the device was not registered to the Free Spirit, but was found very near to where the last distress call had come from.

The boat had been bound for Europe after setting off from Newport, Rhode Island.

Jacek Bielecki had recently moved from Orford, Suffolk, to Newport.


BBC NEWS:VIDEO AND AUDIO
Coastguard outlines the parameters of the search



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