Deepening the mystery of missing millionaire Guma Aguiar’s disappearance, experts examining newly released GPS data from Aguiar’s boat say it could suggest a scenario in which he jumped ship and boarded a waiting boat mid-sea.
“The pattern is very identifiable. It just sort of fits as a scenario,” boat expert Henry Pickersgill told ABCNews.com. “There appears to be a pattern in the vessel’s track, speed, longitude and latitude to indicate that it may have stopped briefly for enough time for Mr. Aguiar to have transferred to another vessel.”
Pickersgill is an independent marine surveyor based in Brooksville, Fla. He has been in the boat and yacht industry for over 40 years.
Guma Aguiar, 35, was last seen June 19 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Early the next morning, his 31-foot fishing boat, the T.T. Zion, washed up on a Fort Lauderdale beach with the engine running and lights on, but with no sign of its Brazilian-born owner.
Police are investigating his disappearance as a missing person case. While some have suggested that the financially and mentally troubled millionaire may have committed suicide, no body has been found. There have also not been any reported sightings of Aguiar.
“There’s all sorts of possibilities that could play in here,” Fort Lauderdale Police Det. Travis Mandell told “Good Morning America.” “We don’t know exactly what occurred out there on the ocean.”
“With [Aguiar's] amount of means and what he is able to do, it would be quite easy for him to stage his own disappearance and it would be very difficult for us to find him,” Mandell said.
The 37-page GPS analysis report was released by the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday. A series of maps show Aguiar’s route from the night of his disappearance, including the speed at which he was traveling at all points.
A witness told police the boat was traveling very fast “wave jumping” at some points.
The GPS data starts at 7:29 p.m., once Aguiar had already departed from the inlet near his home. The data shows that the boat traveled northeast until it was about four miles from shore, made an unusual triangle and then drifted slowly back to shore.
“You can easily say he keeps working northeast towards whatever he’s looking for, sees it at the top of the triangle, goes to it, steps off the boat quickly, doesn’t even turn the engine off and lets it go,” expert Nathan Spaulding told ABCNews.com. “It takes half a second to jump off another boat.”
Spaulding is an associate of Pickersgill’s. Spaulding, who is based in Marathon, Fla., is also an independent marine surveyor with over 40 years of experience. The two men looked at the Coast Guard analysis separately and then each spoke to ABCNews.com separately.
“The top speed of the vessel was approximately 31 miles per hour at 7:35 P.M.,” the Fort Lauderdale police wrote in a news release. “At 7:56 P.M., the vessel’s GPS data shows an abrupt decrease of speed, slowing down to approximately 0.6 miles per hour, as well as a drastic change in course to head westbound.”
“Now we were able to actually establish a timeline where Mr. Aguiar left his residence, went out to sea and the boat drastically changed course,” Mandell told “GMA.”
From there, the boast drifted southwest with speeds no greater than 3 miles per hour before it washed up on the beach and was eventually towed back to an inlet.
“The track, from where it starts, to the loop before it starts to drift west, looks like someone looking for something,” Spaulding told ABCNews.com. “The squiggly areas, where the vessel slows and veers around, is likely [so that someone is able] to talk on the cellphone — very, very difficult, if not impossible, at high speed.”
When Aguiar dramatically slowed his speed, he did a 360-degree spin and then veered three times from his relatively straight northeast trajectory.
“Something distracted him there,” Spaulding said. He theorized that Aguiar may have been on the phone or veering to avoid wind or the night’s stormy weather.
After the three bumps, Aguiar picked up speed again until he made a dramatic right turn and then the boat moved diagonally, forming a small triangle, before it began its slow drift back to shore.
Both Spaulding and Pickersgill interpreted this triangle as an unusual maneuver.
“There’s a recognizable pattern in the GPS speed and data spots to indicate that if this person were to have stopped to transfer to another boat, this is where it could have happened,” Pickersgill said. “It looks to me as if we’ve got a transfer point.”
Spaulding echoed his thoughts. “It just so looks like he was looking for something in that direction,” he said.
Police said that detectives had found “no evidence to suggest the boat ever came to a complete stop in the Atlantic Ocean,” but Pickersgill said a full stop would not be required for a transfer.
“A transfer would not involve stopping the boat in the ocean,” he said. “As a master mariner, the way you do that is to bring the boat slow and kind of tuck it up into the waves, into the wind in that direction. The transfer comes alongside and one quick jump and the other boat is kept running. It looks like it was in neutral to drift ashore.”
He said that the boat’s southwest trajectory after the triangle is consistent with the current in that area.
When the boat washed up, the engine was running and the lights were on. The only damage reported by police was a broken tie rod, the metal rod that connects the boat’s two engines.
“That’s a hard thing to break,” Spaulding said. “You’d have to hit an engine real hard, just one. If it came up aside another boat, did it bang one of the engines?”
Pickersgill said the break could have also happened upon impact with the beach.
GPS Data from Missing Millionaire’s Boat Suggests Jump to Another Boat, Experts Say
July 13, 2012