By John McDevitt

CAPE MAY, N.J. (CBS) —  The US Coast Guard has resumed its search by sea and air for a 45-foot commercial tow boat and its 32-year-old operator, who went missing yesterday morning off the coast of South Jersey.

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A distress signal was sent from the Sea Tow boat Cape Hatteras on Tuesday morning, according to USCG petty officer Cindy Oldham.

“The Coast Guard received an alert from an emergency position indicating radio beacon — it’s called an EPIRB,” she tells KYW Newsradio.  “When it gets wet it sends an alert to the Coast Guard with your position, indicating that there is distress because it’s not supposed to get wet, so you keep it somewhere in your boat where you know if your boat is taking on water or overturns and it gets wet, it sends an alert to the Coast Guard.”

(David McAuliffe.  File photo, provided)

(David McAuliffe. File photo, provided)

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The tug’s position at the time of the alert was near the mouth of the Great Egg Harbor Inlet, between Ocean City and Longport, NJ.   Its captain is 32-year-old David McAuliffe (right).  Officials say there was no response to radio calls or calls to his cell phone.

“We were on scene within seven minutes of the initial notification,” said Lt. Randy Slusher, a helicopter pilot at Air Station Atlantic City. “We were returning from a training mission when we heard the EPIRB, and we immediately diverted to conduct search patterns. We had to return to base due to low fuel, but another aircrew had already launched to search before we departed [the scene].”

The weather conditions and currents had the Coast Guard focusing its search near Cape May today.

It was reported that Cape Hatteras had survival equipment aboard, including two survival suits and two life rafts.

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