KODIAK — On Friday evening, the U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for a man last seen aboard a fishing boat north of St. Matthew Island Thursday.
According a press release published Thursday, a U.S.C.G. Air Station Kodiak C-130 Hercules aircrew launched from Kotzebue to search for the man. The aircrew were joined in the search by crew of the fishing vessels Clipper Epic, Frontier Spirit and Frontier Mariner. The crew of the U.S.C.G. Cutter Douglas Munro was also sent to assist in the search.
The unnamed man was initially reported missing to the Coast Guard by the master of the 162-foot fishing vessel Clipper Epic at about 12:40 p.m., approximately 60 miles north of St. Matthew Island in the Bering Sea.
Search conditions included 15 mph winds, five-foot seas, ten-mile visibility, an air temperature of 48 degrees and a water temperature of 50 degrees.
“The Coast Guard, the crew of Clipper Epic and others are doing everything we can to find this man,” said Maren Murphy, Coast Guard 17th District command duty officer for the case, via press release, Thursday. “We plan to search through the night.”
Ultimately, a second C-130 Hercules aircrew joined the search, which lasted more than 24 hours, covering approximately 894 square nautical miles.
The search was suspended at 3 p.m. Friday pending any further developments.
“Most of us join the Coast Guard specifically because we want to save lives,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Jared Buchmiller, 17th District command duty officer for the case Friday. “The painful reality is that we can’t always bring people home. It is with heavy hearts that we suspended this search today.”
Stranded mariners rescued
A U.S.C.G. Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew rescued five people stranded on a boat without power near Tununak, Saturday.
According to a press release, watchstanders in the 17th District command center in Juneau received notification from Alaska State Troopers at about 10:30 p.m., Friday, that the 22-foot boat was adrift without power approximately 4 miles off Tununak. AST also reported that the vessel was taking on water and dragging anchor, and that the skiff’s VHF radio was running out of batteries.
U.S.C.G. issued an urgent marine information broadcast to alert mariners of the need for help, and diverted the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro. The Canadian research vessel Frosti answered the UMIB and headed toward the disabled vessel to assist.
An Air Station Kodiak C-130 Hercules aircrew launched and made radio contact with family members of the distressed party. The family members guided the pilots to the location of the vessel and got them in radio range of the people aboard.
An Air Station Kodiak helicopter crew subsequently arrived on scene at about 7:45 a.m., Saturday, and hoisted all five people to the helicopter, before bringing them to Tununak.
“Because the family of these folks had VHF radios, and because they had a radio aboard as well, we were better able to locate them and understand their situation,” said Lt. Casey Corpe, C-130 Hercules co-pilot for the case, via press release. “Though they did not have a life jacket for every person on the boat, I’m sure that next time they go out they will. Alaskan water temperatures are unforgiving. If something goes wrong on the water, a life jacket often means the difference between life and death.”
Conditions when the Coast Guard arrived on scene were 40 mph winds, six-foot seas, ten-mile visibility, and 49 degree air and water temperatures.