Debris found in the Gulf of Alaska on Tuesday evening is “consistent with debris that would have been found” on the helicopter flown by a missing former tribal health executive, the U.S. Coast Guard said Wednesday.
The Coast Guard said it was calling off the search for Andy Teuber, 52, reported overdue by family Tuesday afternoon when he failed to arrive in Kodiak after leaving Anchorage several hours before.
The decision was based “on the survivability rate if he entered the water at the time of the report,” said Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Lexie Preston.
Teuber resigned suddenly last week as president and chairman of the state’s largest tribal health care organization. This week, his former assistant at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium provided details of her accusations of sexual misconduct against him. Teuber denied the allegations in emails this week, some of them forwarded by his attorney after he took off Tuesday.
Authorities say they don’t yet know what led to the helicopter’s apparent crash.
Teuber told the Daily News this week that he got married on Monday. He was alone in the helicopter on Tuesday, according to the Coast Guard.
Searchers spotted a yellow helicopter float among debris scattered in the water, Preston said, adding debris hasn’t been recovered yet. That matches the equipment on the Robinson R66 Turbine Marine helicopter Teuber was described as flying from Merrill Field in Anchorage, authorities said.
The Coast Guard said he left just after 2 p.m. A family member reported him missing. She provided the Coast Guard with his last known location based on GPS software, Preston said. That location, at around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, was approximately two nautical miles southeast of Sugarloaf Island in the uninhabited Barren Islands.
The islands sit in the northern Gulf of Alaska between Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island, which is about 60 nautical miles to the southwest. A data buoy in the area showed winds at water level of 12 to 15 mph, gusting from 21 to 27 mph at midafternoon Tuesday.
The Coast Guard launched a C-130 fixed-wing airplane and an MH-60 helicopter to search and discovered debris around 7 nautical miles southeast of Ushagat Island, a spokesman said Tuesday night. The Cutter Stratton was expected to arrive in the search area Wednesday morning.
The float recovered from the water is a “pop-up” variety that normally remains wrapped around the helicopter’s skids. Pilots can deploy the floats in case of emergencies over water. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the float had inflated.
The National Transportation Safety Board is beginning an investigation and coordinating the collection of debris, according to Alaska chief Clint Johnson. The agency has assigned a meteorologist to assess weather conditions at the time the helicopter went missing and has reached out to the helicopter company Teuber owned.
The helicopter he was in had a tracking system as well as Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast surveillance technology, Johnson said.
Teuber lived in Anchorage and was originally from the Kodiak area. He was president and chairman of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium from 2008 until his resignation last week. He was also president of the Kodiak Native Association and served on the University of Alaska Board of Regents until he stepped down last week.
The accusations against him stemmed from what former assistant Savanah Evans described as “unrelenting” abuse in a three-page letter she provided the consortium. Evans resigned Feb. 23 and Teuber resigned later that day.
Teuber’s family issued a statement Wednesday evening calling the allegations “unfair, hateful, untrue, and malicious.”
“Andy Teuber was a talented, energetic, successful, and proud Alaskan,” the statement said. “We knew him as all of these things, but also as our loving, kind, and gregarious father, brother, cousin, partner, and spouse. We cannot express in words the depth of our sorrow for his loss. We will have many occasions to share our happy memories of this remarkable man with his many friends and associates, and we will announce the arrangements in future communications.
“We regret at this difficult time that we are also compelled to address the unfair, hateful, untrue, and malicious attacks recently published against Andy. We feel that these attacks do not describe the extraordinary man whose loss we mourn so deeply. There is much more to be said on this, but for now we request the space and time to mourn and remember our Andy as the great man we knew him to be. We appreciate all of your kind thoughts and prayers in this difficult time.”
On Wednesday, Evans provided a statement through her attorney, Jana Weltzin: “This is a difficult time for my client. It is also a difficult time for Mr. Teuber’s family. Ms. Evans offers her condolences and prayers for everyone impacted by this tragedy, especially to Mr. Teuber’s children. She does stand ready to participate in the ANTHC internal investigation to ensure the cycle of abusive and enabling behavior truly ends. I ask that you offer her privacy during these coming days as well.”
Teuber’s house in Anchorage was put up for sale Tuesday afternoon. His real estate agent, Joe Bell, said Teuber reached out a few days earlier and told Bell to list the home.
“This was all pre-planned. We had put the home in ‘coming soon’ status,” Bell said Wednesday. “Then he said he was going to be headed out of town, which typically means going back to Kodiak. I wasn’t expecting to hear anything from him for a few days.”
The helicopter’s tail number, N1767, was registered to Kodiak Helicopters LLC. According to business records, the company is owned by Teuber.
The NTSB is asking any observers of weather in the Barren Islands between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday to contact firstname.lastname@example.org