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Coast Guard suspends search for missing Cordova man

Laurel Andrews
The Coast Guard is searching for a man last seen swimming to shore after his boat tipped over in Deep Bay, north of the Prince William Sound fishing community of Cordova in Southcentral Alaska, on Saturday night. USFWS photo

The Coast Guard suspended the search Sunday evening for a Cordova man last seen swimming to shore after his boat tipped over in Deep Bay, north of the Prince William Sound fishing community of Cordova in Southcentral Alaska, on Saturday night.

The Coast Guard received a call around 9 p.m. Saturday from Matthew Ward, 28, who watched his friend Erman “Tony” Fonzi, 34, go under water while attempting to swim to shore after their boat capsized. 

The two men were staying at a cabin at Deep Bay with three other people when they decided to go fishing for rockfish. They were fishing in a roughly 5-foot, punt-style boat Saturday evening, when one of the men stood up, causing the boat to tip over. Neither men were wearing lifejackets.

Both men started swimming toward shore, about 150 feet away, according to Alaska State Troopers. Ward made it to the coast, and looked back to see Fonzi still swimming. Ward watched Fonzi slip under water about 120 feet from shore, and Ward lost track of him.

Ward made it to a nearby cabin and called the Coast Guard via a VHF-FM radio channel.

The Coast-Guard Cutter Sycamore was sent out to search for Fonzi, sending out smallboat crews to search the waters. A Coast Guard helicopter from Kodiak was sent in to search for the man Sunday morning, but was pulled off the search by mid-day Sunday, spokesperson Shawn Eggert said, most likely to refuel, and due to limits on how long crews can search before fatigue sets in.

The Churchill, an Alaska Wildlife Troopers boat, was on scene Saturday night and Sunday morning, assisting in the search. The Churchill suspended the search Sunday evening but will resume Monday during low tides. The Coast Guard suspended the search Sunday evening, and will only resume if new information on Fonzi is received, Eggert wrote.

Troopers say alcohol is suspected to be a factor in the accident.

Correction: This article originally stated that the missing man was Frank "Tony" Fonzi, age 36. Both name and age have been corrected to Erman "Tony" Fonzi, age 34.

Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com