Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart reportedly found dead, U.S. Coast Guard says
Body of award-winning filmmaker found off Florida Keys by Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department
The body of Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart has been reportedly found off the coast of Florida, according to a tweet from the U.S. Coast Guard.
Coast guard officials tweeted Friday evening that the Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department "reportedly found Stewart at a depth of 220 feet" off the Florida Keys.
Stewart's family issued a brief written statement Friday evening in response to the announcement.
"Unfortunately it is with a heavy heart that I share Rob has been found. We are deeply saddened but take comfort that he passed while doing what he loved," family spokeswoman Victoria Gormley wrote.
The tweet announcing the discovery of Stewart's body came just a couple of hours after the coast guard said it was planning to suspend the search at sunset.
Capt. Jeffrey Janszen told a news conference in Islamorada, Fla., that the coast guard was confident it had done everything it could do in the search for the 37-year-old.
The search covered more than 14,000 square kilometres — an area the size of Connecticut, Janszen said Friday afternoon. Thirteen volunteer aircraft and 20 volunteer boats were part of the search, along with many volunteer divers.
Missing since Tuesday
The Toronto filmmaker and conservationist went missing Tuesday evening during a dive off the Florida Keys.
A coast guard spokesperson said Stewart was "diving on a wreck off of Islamorada" with three other divers when he disappeared. The three others completed the dive safely.
Stewart resurfaced at the end of the dive, but as the boat was preparing to pick him up, he went back under and was not seen again.
While it wasn't clear what made Stewart go back underwater, his sister, Alexandra Stewart, told CBC Toronto earlier this week that it was a "particularly difficult" dive, going to a depth of nearly 70 metres.
Stewart is best known for his 2006 documentary Sharkwater, an examination of global shark hunting and its impact on the ocean ecosystem. He was active in underwater filming.
Alexandra Stewart said her brother's latest dive was part of work for the film's upcoming sequel, Sharkwater: Extinction.
Sharkwater premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and has since won more than 40 awards at film festivals around the world.
Stewart's second film, Revolution, was the highest-grossing Canadian documentary in 2013 and won 19 awards from global film festivals.
Born and raised in Toronto, Stewart studied biology at Western University in London, Ont.
A longtime friend of Stewart, Tyler MacLeod, had set up a GoFundMe campaign to mobilize resources for the search. As of Friday afternoon, the campaign had raised more than $175,000.
With files from Linda Ward