Briton still missing off Florida

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The Independent Online
US COASTGUARDS were still searching yesterday for Graeme Woods, a 34-year-old businessman from Liverpool, and two other men who disappeared last Wednesday when a casino ship sank off the coast of Florida during Hurricane Erin, writes Phil Davison in Miami.

Mr Woods was vice-president of Club Royale, which chartered the ship of the same name to run gambling cruises off the island resort of Palm Beach. By last night he, Norwegian captain Lars Engebretsen and the ship's cook looked like being the only direct victims of the hurricane.

On Friday coastguards found a body in a life-raft off the coast of Georgia, far north of where the ship went down, but it had not been identified by last night.

Those who knew Mr Woods were yesterday asking why the Palm Beach port authorities had ordered the Club Royale to set sail as the hurricane approached. Had the vessel stayed in port, she would have been unharmed.

There was also surprise that Mr Woods should join a skeleton crew of 10 as the vessel attempted to ride out the storm. And why did the Club Royale sink when other ships survived?

Last Monday evening, large vessels were ordered out of port to weather the storm at sea. The Club Royale set sail at 7pm on Monday and sank at around 8am on Wednesday, about 90 miles east of Cape Canaveral.

"I've heard two versions from survivors," Graeme Woods' brother Keith said yesterday as he comforted his parents at a Palm Beach hotel. "Some say they saw Graeme on top of a life-raft; others say he never made it off the ship."