Search suspended for plane, pilot missing in Washington state waters after leaving Ketchikan

A search in waters near Port Angeles, Washington, for a pilot and plane that went missing Tuesday during a flight from Ketchikan was suspended Wednesday afternoon.

A man took off from Ketchikan midday Tuesday in a Cessna 170A that officials believe went down north of Port Angeles just before 5 p.m. that evening, the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest Region said in a statement.

The pilot sent out a mayday call around 4:40 p.m. Tuesday that was picked up by a local control tower and nearby ships, Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier said.

“They asked him to give a location and the location that he gave was basically land formations and a ship that he saw,” Strohmaier said. “So that’s why we had to go back and track where the ship was that he might have seen and utilize that geographic positioning.”

The Coast Guard did not identify the missing pilot. It was not immediately clear Wednesday if the man was from Ketchikan or why the plane may have crashed.

The search was suspended as of 4 p.m. Wednesday after American and Canadian crews combed through an area spanning 1,170 square miles in the Strait of Juan de Fuca over 23 hours, the Coast Guard said.

“Suspending search efforts is always an extremely tough decision,” said Capt. Nathan Coulter, chief of search and rescue for the U.S. Coast Guard’s 13th District. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the pilot involved.”