Dive team joins search for person of interest in Gabby Petito’s death, Brian Laundrie

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VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) – Authorities in Sarasota County say they do not have Brian Laundrie in custody, despite social media rumors.

Search crews headed back to the Carlton Reserve in Venice on Wednesday to look for the 23-year-old. Around noon, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office SURF (Sheriff’s Underwater Recovery Force) team pulled up to the Carlton Reserve to assist with the search.

The sheriff’s office explained SURF Team members are divers who are called upon to search for evidence in bodies of water. According to North Port Police PIO Josh Taylor, it’s just part of the overall search process right now.

“At this time, this does not mean anything has been found,” he said.

North Port Police Commander Joe Fussell, who is leading the search at Carlton, said Wednesday law enforcement is “hungry” to find Laundrie.

“We’ve deployed numerous resources and we’re trying to cover every acre of this preserve,” he said.

The ground search ended just after 7 p.m. on Wednesday and police say nothing has been found. They’ll be back out tomorrow to continue search efforts.

Laundrie is the only person of interest in the death of Gabby Petito. Police say the 22-year-old woman from North Port disappeared while on a road trip with Laundrie. The Teton County coroner confirmed Tuesday a body found in Wyoming belongs to Petito. Her death has been ruled a homicide.

Law enforcement in Florida have been focusing their search efforts for Laundrie on the 25,000-acre nature reserve since Friday when Laundrie was reported missing by his family.

According to police, loved ones claim Laundrie left his North Port home to hike in Carlton Reserve on Tuesday, Sept. 14 and hasn’t been seen since.

Multiple agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, North Port Police Department and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission are involved in the search. Since the start, crews have been open about challenges they’re facing during their efforts.

“We’re expecting to get wet by the end of the day and check the entire area for Brian Laundrie,” Fussell said Tuesday.

According to officers, 75% of the area they’re searching is underwater. Resources involved in the search include ATVs, UTVs, drones and K-9s.

Police say during their days of searching in the reserve, they haven’t found any significant items.

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