WASHINGTON (AFP) - A US Navy warship helicopter has spotted a missing yacht in the Atlantic but found no trace of its four-man British crew now feared dead, American officials said on Friday.
The Cheeki Rafiki's overturned hull was located 1,000 nautical miles (1,850 kilometers) off the shore of Massachusetts.
Inside, search crews located the life raft secured in its storage space, "indicating it was not used for emergency purposes," the Coast Guard said, in further indication that the crew did not make it out alive.
The information was shared with the crewmen's families.
The 12-metre yacht was returning from a regatta off the Caribbean island of Antigua when it began taking on water on May 15, about 600 miles east of Cape Cod. It lost contact a day later.
The crew comprised of experienced captain Andrew Bridge, 22, and crew members James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56.
"Navy crews observed that the sailing vessel's keel was broken off, causing a breech in the hull," the US Coast Guard said in a statement.
A surface swimmer "determined the boat's cabin was flooded and windows were shattered, contributing to the complete flooding inside," it added. "The swimmer also knocked on the hull and reached an arm's length below the waterline with no results."
The Coast Guard had announced on Thursday that search operations would be called off by midnight on Friday unless search and rescue workers saw or learned anything suggesting the crew could still be alive.
"None of the current developments indicate that to be the case," the Coast Guard said, noting it does not usually conduct operations to salvage vessels after a shipwreck.
In a statement issued through the Foreign Office in London, Warren's family voiced their sadness at the news.
"We are very sad that the US has now suspended the search for Stephen and his friends," they said. "From the beginning we, together with the other families involved, have continued to hold out hope that he would be found alive. The US Coast Guard have led an exceptional search. "This is now an incredibly difficult time for all the family."