Coast Guard suspends search for missing boaters

Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Coast Guard on Saturday suspended its search for two men missing after an emergency signal was issued from a 48-foot fishing boat off the southwestern tip of the Kenai Peninsula.

The Coast Guard stopped searching for Pat DiMichele of Seward and Mark Thibault, originally from New Hampshire, after determining their chances of survival were extremely low.

The decision was made after the Coast Guard on Saturday conducted a shoreline search in the area where the Shenandoah turned up missing.

A helicopter search Friday turned up debris from the boat but not the missing men, said Lt. Michele Schaillip with the Coast Guard in Juneau.

The Coast Guard was alerted to a problem Friday morning at about 1:30 a.m. when an emergency radio signal from the Shenandoah was picked up by the command center in Juneau.

The Shenandoah had been towing another boat, the Mary J, from Homer to Seward through 20-foot seas and winds gusting to more than 60 mph when the alert was sent, said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Marsha Delaney.

Through late Friday afternoon, rescuers aboard a Coast Guard C-130 airplane and two HH-60 Jayhawk helicopters had not found the crew or the Shenandoah in an area near the Chugach Islands, about 160 miles from Anchorage.

A helicopter crew dispatched from Kodiak discovered a life raft and floating debris about 5 a.m. near Chugach Bay. A rescue swimmer from the helicopter found no one on the raft.

A few hours later, other rescuers found two life jackets floating in the water, and another 15 life jackets farther up the bay. They located the Mary J aground at the mouth of Windy Bay about 10:30 a.m., upright and apparently in good shape, Delaney said.

The vessel was still rigged for towing, but the tow line had broken.

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