Coast Guard, HFD call search for missing fisherman a 'real challenge'

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - US Coast Guard and Honolulu fire crews expanded their search for a missing fisherman in water off Oahu Monday. Despite their efforts, there's still no sign of the Wailupe Valley man or his small boat.

This mission at sea is the latest in a series of ocean search operations over the past few months. Such operations can quickly get into the thousands of dollars in terms of cost.

A second Coast Guard cutter joined the search Monday afternoon. The Cutter Ahi, the Cutter Kiska and a C-130 airplane, which have night-vision capabilities and radar, will continue looking through the night.

The Coast Guard in Hawaii says it's involved in this type of mission an average of two times per month.

The 110-foot Cutter Kiska stopped at the Coast Guard station at Sand Island to re-fuel before heading back out to sea. So far, crews aboard the Kiska, several Coast Guard aircraft and the HFD helicopter have scoured about 5,800 square miles of ocean for Kon Wai Young, 53, and his 19-foot boat.

"We are literally throwing pretty much everything we have at this case," Commander Steve Wheeler, US Coast Guard response chief, said. "It's the search area we're dealing with and how we can get the maximum coverage for that area."

There's a reason the search area is so vast and so many resources are needed.

Young's truck and boat trailer were found at Maunalua Bay in Hawaii Kai Saturday night. But officials don't know exactly where he was heading to fish.

"There's two scenarios that we have used our drift modeling to create search areas for," Wheeler said. "There's also a scenario where he may have done something completely new, which we have to take that into account."

While it may seem that search operations at sea are happening more frequently, the Coast Guard says calls across the state are holding steady at an average of two per month, about 25 such missions per year.

Honolulu fire officials say while they did see increases in ocean rescue calls in July and August compared to last year, not all of the calls resulted in full-blown operations.

"It really does capture our attention whenever it does happen because we are an ocean state," Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department, said. "Whenever somebody gets in trouble in the ocean, all of us pay attention and say, oh, is that person going to be ok."

A decision on how long to continue the search for Young has not yet been made.

"We may be the best chance that this person has of coming home safely, so we take that very seriously," Seelig said.

"We go until we feel that there's just really nothing left that we can do," Wheeler said.

Coast Guard and fire officials say this case shows how crucial it is for people who are heading out to sea to let someone know exactly where they are going and what time they're planning to return.


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