Coast Guard suspends search for Southeast hunter

Zaz Hollander

The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended the search for a hunter missing near Behm Canal in Southeast Alaska since Sept. 15 after finding his hunting partner cold but alive on Sunday.

The search for 24-year-old Garrett Hagan of Craig was suspended late Tuesday, the Coast Guard said. Coast Guard crews, family members, local rescue volunteers and a small cruise vessel combed area waters and shorelines without success. Behm Canal is located northwest of Ketchikan.

A Coast Guard Jay Hawk helicopter crew from Air Station Sitka rescued Hagan's severely hypothermic companion on Sunday from the shore near the mouth of the Chickamin River. Adrian Knopps, 51, of Grand Ledge, Mich. was flown to Ketchikan for treatment. He told rescuers that he last saw Hagan when he left with fresh game in a 7-foot skiff for the fishing vessel Abundance.

Knopps was found in a cabin after the crew of the cruise vessel Wilderness Adventure reported they found the 44-foot Abundance adrift with no one aboard near Saks Cove, the Coast Guard said. That call came in at 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

The boat's captain also put out a fire aboard the Abundance, according to a statement from Cmdr. Marc Burd, chief of response for Coast Guard Sector Juneau.

Coast Guard helicopter crews, a 47-foot motor life-boat crew from Ketchikan, the Cutter Chandeleus, the Wilderness Adventurer, Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Services and family members of the missing man searched for the other hunter without success, the Coast Guard said. Search efforts totaled 73 hours and more than 514 miles of area from Sunday morning until Tuesday evening when the search was called off.

The Wilderness Adventure conducted a shoreline search of Burroughs Bay and did not see any sign of the hunters, the Coast Guard said. Coast Guard searches continued through the night and into Tuesday when Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Service members and their rescue dogs worked with Station Ketchikan to search cabins along the Chikamin River.

The Coast Guard commander expressed his gratitude for the help and his condolences to the missing hunter's relatives.

"Suspending a case is one of the hardest decisions that we as search and rescuers have to make and our thoughts and prayers are with the family," Burd said. "We appreciate the support of our search and rescue partners."