Authorities suspend search for missing boaters

Posted: Friday, September 08, 2000

YAKUTAT (AP) -- Authorities called off the search Friday for two fishermen presumed dead after their skiff was found capsized near Yakutat, but friends and relatives held out hope for their survival.

Charles Johnson, 40, of Yakutat and Erik Kveum, 21, of Hoonah left Yakutat for a set net site at Ocean Cape near Yakutat's southwestern shore on Wednesday evening in weather the National Weather Service described as mild.

Their overturned 19-foot fiberglass skiff was found Thursday morning. Two helicopter crews and other searchers looked throughout the day and evening but found no sign of the missing men.

''We went over and over that 15-mile stretch of Yakutat Bay and found nothing,'' said Petty Officer Roger Wetherell.

Private planes circled the area Friday morning, said Alaska State Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson, but weather prevented searchers from pulling up the set nets to see if the bodies are tangled there.

Johnson's wife, Pauline, told the Coast Guard that the men had no lifejackets or survival gear, but locals still plan to continue the search for another two days, said Bernice Trago, Johnson's sister-in-law.

''There are people on the beaches walking, and searching in boats and on four-wheelers,'' Trago told the Juneau Empire.

Kveum's mother, Sandy Kveum of Hoonah, was praying Friday that her son was holed safe somewhere.

''They have not declared him dead yet,'' she said, her voice cracking.

Steven Brown, general manager of Hoonah Trading, described Kveum as ''a great, great, super kid. He was saving up money fishing to go to Bible college.''

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