Florida

Searchers needed on beaches, boats to find filmmaker off Florida Keys

Rob Stewart in 2013.

Rob Stewart in 2013.  (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

With time running short to find a filmmaker who disappeared while scuba diving off the Florida Keys, friends said Friday they ramped up their all-out search -- and they need volunteers to operate boats and walk along nearby beaches.

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Rob Stewart, 37, vanished Tuesday near Alligator Reef, off Lower Matecumbe Key. Stewart is from Toronto, Canada. 

Close friends said they'd arranged to use boats and a low-flying plane with night vision capabilities to look for Stewart -- but they needed more volunteers. Specifically, people who could serve as lookouts on boats and walking along nearby beaches, Tyler MacLeod said.

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Stewart may have passed out, environmental activist Paul Watson told the Sun Sentinel, saying another diver with the filmmaker did pass out.

Stewart was wearing a black diving suit and black mask, MacLeod said. The suit carried two small white air tanks.

The search area moved slightly north because currents may have pushed Stewart toward Miami, Christy Needler added.

She said Stewart was an experienced diver an "incredible" ability to survive in the water for a long time. Supporters kept their hopes up.

GoFundMe page set up to help in the search had raised around $160,000 by Friday afternoon.

Stewart is a wildlife photographer, filmmaker and conservationist. His films include "Sharkwater" and "Revolution," released in 2013. He's also written two books, "Sharkwater: An Odyssey to Save the Planet" and "Save the Humans."

Joseph Pickerill, a spokesman for Canada's foreign minister, said he couldn't confirm personal details but said Canadian consular officials "are in direct contact with the family and will support them during this difficult time."

Coast Guard officials said the Navy, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Monroe County Sheriff's Office were assisting in the search.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.