A 48-year-old Apopka man called to say he is alive and well, U.S. Coast Guard officials say, a month after he disappeared after launching his boat for a fishing trip.
Search crews conducted an almost 13,000-square mile search in the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway after investigators said Bernardo Hernandez launched his boat at a New Smyrna Beach boat ramp for a fishing trip in early February. He was last seen by neighbors on February 6.
"Somebody just doesn't disappear for three weeks and just be found like that. It's just really weird," neighbor Victoria Fagundo said.
"We knew that he had gotten on a boat and went out there with the boat, because we seen him working on the boat the day before," she said. "We were fearing the worst that he had died, drowned, gotten eaten by sharks or something like that."
Fagundo and her family say they were in disbelief this morning when they got the news that their next-door neighbor for whom they'd been praying for weeks had been alive the whole time.
"I had three people text me and call me to say, 'Your neighbor's alive,' and I thought they were just messing with me," Fagundo said.
Coast Guard officials say they're working with the New Smyrna Beach Police Department to conduct an investigation into what happened to Hernandez during the past month.
No one answered the door Thursday at Hernandez's Apopka home. Meanwhile, his neighbors are also looking for answers.
Investigators say Hernandez might be responsible for the cost of the massive search.