Coast Guard officials have suspended their search for an East Texas diver who went missing off the Bahamas and is believed to have been the victim of a shark, his family told NBC News.
U.S. and Bahamian authorities had been searching for John E. Petty of Longview, Texas, since Sunday night. The Coast Guard announced the halt to its search Wednesday afternoon.
Petty was last seen by other divers on a commercial shark diving venture about 20 nautical miles northwest of West End on Grand Bahama island.
Petty was among eight divers in the group. Coast Guard officials say the captain of the commercial dive vessel alerted authorities when Petty failed to resurface.
Petty Officer John-Paul Rios said Wednesday that a "substantial amount" of dive gear had been found within the search area, but it could not be immediately confirmed that the gear belonged to the missing man.
The items found included a mask, a tank, a buoyancy device, a camera and a weight belt, according to a statement from the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
Some of the items showed visible signs of apparent bite marks, the statement said.
Petty's son-in law released a statement, saying in part, "The family would like to thank everyone for the overwhelming support and prayers on behalf of John Petty ... After the Bahamian Government studied the items recovered in numerous searches, it has been determined that a shark attack was the cause. A memorial service is being planned and details will be posted later today. Thank you all again."