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Coast Guard searching for 2 campers still missing after boat sank

Jerzy Shedlock

Coast Guard personnel from Alaska and Canada and civilian vessels are searching for two people reportedly in the frigid waters off Cape Ommaney of Baranof Island. A recreation landing craft sank Thursday evening, sending its three occupants overboard.

Juneau-based Coast Guard personnel received a radio call for help from a survivor of the sinking vessel early Friday morning, and they broadcast a request for assistance from mariners in the area and launched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to help search for three people.

Good Samaritans aboard the fishing vessel Otter found one survivor on a beach of Cape Ommaney, the Coast Guard reported. The survivor told Otter’s crew his landing craft sank around 8 p.m. Thursday evening while returning from a camping trip. All three of them tried to swim to shore wearing life jackets, he said.

Baranof Island, located in Alaska’s panhandle, is slightly smaller than the state of Delaware. The island is home to Sitka, a small community largely supported by the seafood industry.

The Otter is now headed for Sitka. The Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Sitka and five civilian fishing vessels are continuing the search for two people east of the cape. The Coast Guard Cutter Chandeleur and a Canadian coast guard P-3 Variant airplane crew are also headed to the area.

Canadian partners have been called upon in hopes of increasing the chances of finding the two men, said Lt. Ryan Erickson, a command duty officer at Coast Guard Sector Juneau, in a press release. He said responders are trying to find the men as quickly as possible, as they may have been in the water for more than 15 hours.

Weather conditions on scene are reportedly 12 to 23 mph winds and four-foot seas with good visibility. The seasonal water temperature for Southeast Alaska in August is in the 50s.

Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com