Mother, child, reunited on Fort Myers Beach
A massive search that got under way Saturday for a sailboat carrying a Palm Bay man and the son he is accused of abducting is over.
The St. Petersburg Coast Guard Cutter “Crocodile” pulled up to the U.S. Coast Guard Station on Fort Myers Beach Tuesday evening and delivered the 3-year-old boy to his waiting mother.
Luke Finch was carried out of the cutter and onto the dock by a female Cocoa police officer. Instantly, his mother, Christa Finch, hurried out of a secured area to smother him with tears and kisses. The reunion between mother and child ended four days of tragic worry.
The saga began after the boy was reported missing following a supervised visit with Luke’s father, Paul Martikainen, who was reportedly living at a St. Petersburg marina and learning how to sail.
The marina manager saw the missing child report on the local 11 o’clock news, recognized both man and boy, and immediately called the authorities.
According to tips received by the Cocoa police department, Martikainen, who authorities said had been detained and would be turned over to FBI custody, had been planning to take the child for months.
According to Petty Officer and Public Affairs Specialist Mariana O’Leary, a Coast Guard aircraft spotted the vessel on Monday at roughly 5 p.m., and kept it under watch.
As Tuesday dawned, small boats from both cutters approached the sailboat, showed their weapons and detained Martikainen.
“The Coast Guard’s C130 aircraft out of Air Station Clearwater spotted the vessel (Monday) at about 5 p.m,” said O’Leary. “The plane continued to keep surveillance on the sailboat overnight. At first light, a boarding team from Coast Guard Cutters ‘Kodiac Island’ out of Key West and ‘Crocodile’ out of St. Petersburg launched small boats and rescued the boy safely from the sailboat.”
O’Leary, who is from Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg, said the sailboat was found approximately 140 miles southwest off Fort Myers Beach. The “Kodiac Island” cutter from Key West made the rescue, passed Luke on to the “Crocodile” and transported Martikainen hours later to the same Fort Myers Beach location where he was to be taken into federal custody.
Christa Finch arrived to the staging point at the Beach station at 5:30 p.m., some 15 minutes before the St. Petersburg Coast Guard Cutter “Crocodile” pulled up to dock.
Once the boat was secured, Luke, still garbed in a life jacket, was carried onto the dock. That is when Finch hurried to see him.
After a few minutes of the tearful reunion, both mother and child emerged from a secured area to address the press.
“I just want to thank everyone who was involved in the rescue,” said Finch. “I thank God I have my little boy.”
Finch thought Martikainen was going to take her son to another country and not come back. Senior Chief Steve Smith from the Coast Guard Cutter “Crocodile” said that based on the sailboat’s track, it looked like Martikainen was going to the Yucatan Peninsula.
“I just want to go home and be together with my son,” said Finch. “This is just absolutely a miracle.”