The body of Rob Stewart, a Toronto filmmaker known for his documentary Sharkwater, has been found in the Florida Keys by crews working on the U.S. Coast Guard’s joint agency search.
A statement was posted on the Sharkwater website Friday evening saying Stewart was found “peacefully in the ocean” as the family asked for private time to grieve.
“There are no words. We are so deeply grateful to everyone who helped search, and happy that Rob passed while doing what he loved. We are working on how best to honour his incredible work,” the statement said.
A spokesman for the 7th Coast Guard District told Global News Friday evening the body was found by a dive team.
The Coast Guard issued a tweet after 7 p.m. saying, “Body of diver Mr Stewart reportedly found @ depth of 220 ft by ROV assist to Key Largo Vol Fire Dept.”
The message was posted over two hours after officials held a news conference to say air and sea searches for Stewart would end at sunset Friday, three days after Stewart was last seen.
“Our hearts go out to Mr. Stewart’s family, especially his parents Brian and Sandy who I met with earlier today,” Capt. Jeffrey Janszen said during a news conference Friday afternoon.
“The decision to suspend a search is very difficult and it’s not made lightly.”
Stewart, 37, was reported missing by a crew member Tuesday while diving off Alligator Reef in the Florida Keys.
In an update posted on Twitter Friday morning, Coast Guard officials said the joint agency air and sea search for Stewart is continuing. The Coast Guard also said 5,987 square miles (15,506 square kilometres) have been searched so far.
Also, an urgent plea for volunteers was posted on Stewart’s Twitter account (@teamsharkwater) Friday afternoon asking for help searching the Lower Matecumbe, southern half of the Upper Matecumbe and Long Cay areas.
An experienced diver who is best known for his award-winning 2006 documentary Sharkwater, Stewart went missing around 5 p.m. after resurfacing from a dive with two other companions.
He was using a new rebreathing system at the time and was diving “deeper than he’s gone before,” according to Tyler MacLeod, a close friend of the Toronto native.
MacLeod said Stewart was in Florida shooting a sequel for Sharkwater, a film that explores the hunting of sharks and the destruction of ocean ecosystems.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page setup to help with the search efforts raised just under $190,000 as of Friday evening. A statement on the page said remaining funds would be donated to Fin Free, a charity Stewart “founded to help address the global slaughter of sharks.”
Adam Frisk contributed to this report.
WATCH: Family asks for public’s help in search for missing Toronto filmmaker Rob Stewart. Erica Vella reports.
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