Divers locate body of missing Gustavus teen

JUNEAU, Alaska — Divers from the Sitka Fire Dept. Rescue Dive Team located the body of 16 year-old Austin Kesterson Monday around 3:50 p.m. near the Gustavus pier where his jeep was found abandoned in the waters of Icy Passage Sunday.

“Our deepest condolences to the family of this young man,” said Cmdr. Scott LeMasters, deputy commander Coast Guard Sector Juneau. “We put forth our best efforts over two days, covering nearly 1,000 miles total. It’s very unfortunate circumstances were not more favorable.”

The jeep was removed from the water around 5 p.m. Sunday. Rescuers focused in on the area immediately around where the jeep was located using the Sitka Fire Dept. Rescue Dive Team and two Juneau-based Seadogs canine teams.

The Coast Guard, Alaska State Troopers, Glacier Bay National Park Rangers and local residents were also engaged in the search using aircraft, boats, skiffs, four wheelers and on foot.

Between the helicopter and cutter the Coast Guard has covered nearly 1,000 miles of shoreline and open water.

“The reason we’ve tracked so many miles in such a small area is because our track line patterns are spaced only 200 yards apart,” said Todd Buck, a controller with the Coast Guard Sector Juneau Command Center. “A much smaller separation is used when we’re looking for a sole person in the water.”

Rescuers canvassed the shoreline of Gustavus, Pleasant Island and the Porpoise Islands. Searchers thoroughly canvassed Icy Passage and parts of Icy Strait.

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and the Coast Guard Cutter Liberty began searching Sunday afternoon along with Alaska State Troopers, Civil Air Patrol, Glacier Bay National Park Rangers and Gustavus residents.

Controllers at the Coast Guard Sector Juneau Command Center received a call from the troopers at about 1:47 p.m. Sunday requesting search assistance.

A Gustavus resident reportedly located Kesterson’s jeep in the waters of Icy Passage north of Icy Strait Sunday. The jeep appeared to have been driven off the end of a local pier. Kesterson’s father reported to Juneau State Troopers that they had not seen their son since Saturday night.

The Coast Guard helicopter is from Air Station Sitka. The Coast Guard Cutter Liberty is a 110-foot Island Class patrol boat homeported in Auke Bay near Juneau.

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