Coast Guard rescues man from sinking vessel near Kake

Coast Guard District 17 NewsJUNEAU, Alaska — A Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew rescued a man from a sinking vessel in Keku Strait Tuesday.

Lester Kuntz, 47, was reported overdue Monday evening to Coast Guard Sector Juneau watchstanders by Kuntz’s family. Kuntz was transiting from Kake to Wrangell in his 22-foot pleasure craft The Keeper. He was expected to arrive in Wrangell earlier Monday.

The watchstanders directed the launch of a rescue helicopter crew to begin searching for Kuntz. The rescue crew searched for about two hours Monday in Keku Strait, Sumner Strait and the northern shore of Zarembo Island and was unable to locate Kuntz.

A second rescue crew launched Tuesday morning and found Kuntz at about 9:15 a.m. in Keku Strait just south of Conclusion Island. His vessel was disabled and taking on water. The rescue crew hoisted him before his vessel sank. Kuntz was safely taken to Wrangell in good condition.

“It appears that in this case Kuntz was very lucky,” said Lt. j.g. James Dooley of Coast Guard Sector Juneau. “He called his family in Wrangell just as he was departing Kake so they had a good idea when to expect him and knew how long the voyage would take. They knew when to call for help.”

The weather at the time of the incident was about 40 mph winds with seven foot seas.

“Filing a float plan is critical when taking to Alaskan waters,” said Dooley. “Writing down destinations and times will help family and friends relay that information to rescue personnel in case you are in an emergency situation.”

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