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Man vanishes while free diving near WWII-era shipwreck off Florida’s coast

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — Authorities are searching for a diver who went missing Sunday morning after going into the water near a World War II-era shipwreck off Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

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Virgil Price, 39, was last seen Sunday free diving near the wreck of the Halsey, about 9 miles off Jensen Beach, according to the U.S. Coast Guard and the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office.

The West Palm Beach resident failed to surface after his last dive, deputies said. Three other people who were with Price said they last saw him around 10 a.m., the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told the Miami Herald.

Price was free diving, a technique in which a person holds their breath while going underwater instead of using a breathing apparatus, the newspaper reported. He was well-known in the Florida free diver community, according to Florida Freedivers, a sporting goods store in North Palm Beach.

“This is an incredibly difficult time, as Virgil was family to us and a dear friend to so many,” store officials said in a post on social media.

Price was last seen wearing a green wetsuit with an orange strip on the hood, yellow weights on his weight belt and black carbon fiber fins, according to deputies.

He was diving near the Halsey, a 7,088-ton steam tanker that was sunk by a German submarine in May 1942, Treasure Coast Newspapers reported, citing uboat.net. Crew members abandoned the ship and survived, leaving the wreck in about 80 feet of water, according to the newspaper. It has become a well-known dive spot for amberjacks and grouper.