Coast Guard, others continue search for Sitka man

JUNEAU, Alaska – Sitka Mountain Rescue, volunteers from Harris Air, the Alaska State Troopers, and the Coast Guard are working together to search for 41-year-old Sitka resident Chuck Thompson, missing since yesterday along the coast of Baranof Island about 16 miles south of Sitka.

A friend and coworker of the missing man called the Coast Guard Sector Juneau Command Center at 6:50 p.m. on Sunday to report that Thompson had not returned on time. Thompson had been staying at a U.S. Forest Service cabin at Seven Fathoms Bay since Thursday and had planned to return to Sitka Sunday morning. He had a VHF/AM radio with him and had been checking in daily with his coworkers from Sitka-based Harris Air as they flew over.

A Harris Air aircraft located Thompson’s empty 16-foot skiff aground on rocks near Yamani Islet Sunday night. The skiff’s running lights were on, the key was in the “ON” position, and the throttle was in the clutch-ahead position. The rudder was hard-over to port, suggesting that the vessel had been turning in circles.

The Coast Guard retrieved the skiff’s GPS unit and conducted a preliminary investigation, finding that the skiff had been exiting Necker Bay when it began making tight circles before drifting aground. The Coast Guard adjusted its search pattern based on the information from the GPS.

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and crew transported two two-person teams from Sitka Mountain Rescue to the scene this morning to conduct land searches. A search of the cabin revealed Thompson’s belongings, as well as an inflatable kayak he had been using.

In addition to Coast Guard Air Station Sitka and Sitka Mountain Rescue, the 110-foot Coast Guard Cutter Liberty, which arrived in the area at 9 a.m., is also involved in the ongoing search efforts.

Anyone with information that might help locate the missing man should call the Coast Guard Command Center at (907) 463-2980.

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