AD Main Menu

Coast Guard calls off search for third boater in 'complex' decision

Laurel Andrews

The Coast Guard has called off its search for the third boater who is still missing after a vessel sank in the rough waters off of Baranof Island in Southeast Alaska on Thursday evening.

The search for Fred Swenson was called off after 47 hours of accumulative search by Coast Guard aircraft and Good Samaritan boats.

The decision to call off the search was “complex,” Coast Guard spokesperson Sarah Mooers said on Sunday. Two factors, survivability and demand on resources, played the largest role in the decision. The likelihood of a person being found alive decreases significantly after 48 hours of a search and rescue mission, Mooers said. The Coast Guard also had to weigh its ability to respond to other search and rescue missions, and had, “to some degree, keep resources open.”

Ending the search with a person still missing is the “least desirable option,” Mooers said, but “at some point they have to make a decision.”

Mooers said weather conditions also played a role in ending the search and rescue mission. The search will be reopened if any new tips on the case are received. 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” she said.

The vessel sank on Thursday evening. Swenson, Dennis Monroe, 46, both of Montesano, Wash., and John Reid, 44, had left Sitka around 2 p.m. on Thursday aboard the 24-foot vessel the Tanya Faith, heading out to Redfish Bay for sockeye salmon fishing.

Rough waters overran the boat, however, and it sunk, Alaska State Troopers reported.

Monroe was able to swim to shore on the southern point of Baranoff Island and flagged a boat down the next morning. 

Good Samaritans aboard the fishing vessel Otter found one survivor on a beach of Cape Ommaney, the Coast Guard reported. Monroe 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.

Coast Guard search located the body of John Reid, 44, on Saturday afternoon, in open water 7 miles offshore, due west from the southern point of Baranof Island.

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.

Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com