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Search called off for missing Norton Sound boaters, presumed drowned

Alaska Dispatch

A search for two boaters reported missing in Norton Sound in Western Alaska has been called off, according to the Coast Guard. The decision came after the Coast Guard located the 17-foot-skiff that the two had been traveling in overturned on a beach about 35 miles from Unalakleet.

The boat had left the village of Koyuk on Monday and was expected into Unalakleet that evening, but was reported overdue on Tuesday, the Coast Guard reported. Alaska State Troopers began a search for the two missing boaters, identified in a dispatch as 41-year-old David Slwooko and 48-year-old Debra Kimoktoak. Troopers said that the two had enough food aboard the skiff for one day, but a search by boat and aircraft was unsuccessful.

Troopers requested assistance in the search from the Coast Guard, who sent a C-130 aircraft and a Jayhawk helicopter to aid in the effort. On Thursday afternoon, the overturned boat was spotted washed ashore on a beach southwest of Unalakleet. The Jayhawk landed on the beach and confirmed that the boat was indeed the one that had been reported missing.

"The motor was detached but still connected to the boat by cables," troopers reported Friday. "Vessel identification numbers confirmed it was the boat used by Slwooko and Kimoktoak. An aerial shoreline search in the area failed to find any other signs of the missing ... At this time both Slwooko and Kimoktoak are presumed drowned. A search is continuing with local assets.

After continuing the search Thursday, the Coast Guard announced that they were suspending the search effort on Friday morning.

"The decision to suspend was based on the length of time the people were missing, the loss of their vessel, the weather and their overall chances of survival," the agency said in a statement.