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Search underway for man and boat missing since Tuesday off Alaska Peninsula

  • Author: Chris Klint
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published October 16, 2015

An air and sea search was in progress for a man missing en route to his Alaska Peninsula hometown after he was last seen at the helm of a landing craft almost three days ago.

Alaska State Troopers said they were informed Thursday morning that Ugashik resident Roland Briggs, 55, was overdue in the Bristol Bay region. He was last seen Tuesday en route to the village of roughly 15 people about 16 miles up the Ugashik River.

"Roland was last seen leaving the area of Egegik at approximately (1 p.m.) on his vessel, the Ketivik," troopers wrote in a Friday dispatch. "The boat is a 43-foot vessel, with a green hull, white cabin and gray deck."

Troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said Briggs' landing craft had been carrying numerous 55-gallon fuel drums to Ugashik.

"He was transporting a large amount of fuel," Ipsen said. "It was a fuel transfer for the village -- he was expecting to take about 18 hours."

While he was underway, Briggs made a call to his family.

"He actually contacted his wife and said he was going really slow, and that it was going to take a little bit longer -- and that's the last she heard from him," Ipsen said.

Troopers said the Coast Guard had committed at least three aircraft -- an HC-130 search plane and two helicopters -- as well as the cutter Munro to a search of the Ugashik Bay area. In addition, an Alaska Wildlife Troopers aircraft and a private plane were searching for Briggs.

Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst said materials spotted during the search are set to undergo further examination.

"There was some debris located that matches a description of gear aboard the landing craft," DeVuyst said. "Our incident commander is taking a look at the debris."

After the Coast Guard found three fuel drums 25 miles southwest of Ugashik Bay on Thursday evening, Ipsen said they were tentatively matched to those Briggs was carrying.

"Based on the description, someone at the fuel dump where he fueled up confirmed that the description fit his barrels," Ipsen said.

As of Friday morning, an HC-130 and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Kodiak, as well as the Monroe and its embarked MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, were still engaged in the search.

DeVuyst said conditions in the search area Thursday included 2-foot seas and winds at roughly 6 mph.

"It was very light and variable yesterday," DeVuyst said. "Weather this morning is continuing to support positive search conditions."

Although troopers are hoping based on current weather that Briggs simply lost some barrels overboard, Ipsen said it's possible he encountered more severe conditions during his trip.

"It's Bristol Bay," Ipsen said.

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