Coast Guard searching for fisherman who went overboard off Hawaii’s Big Island

HONOLULU — U.S. Coast Guard crews are searching for a fisherman who went missing approximately 60 miles west of the Big Island Friday.

Rescue crews aboard an HH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter and C-130 long-range aircraft from Air Station Barbers Point are on scene and searching for any signs of Devon Johnson, a 25-year-old fisherman who went overboard.

A second fisherman aboard the 34-foot Kealia, Dennis Johnson, stopped the vessel and called for help when he noticed his crewmate missing. Dennis and Devon Johnson are twin brothers. The two were about to switch helm duties aboard the vessel when Dennis noticed his brother missing.

Dennis Johnson called the Kealia’s owner, who in turned called the Coast Guard in Honolulu at 2:45 a.m. Friday. The Coast Guard launched the air crews immediately and two 110-foot patrol boats, the Honolulu-based Galveston Island and Hilo-based Kiska, were underway before sunrise and en route.

Devon Johnson was last seen wearing an olive green sweater and black shorts, but no life jacket.

“The dark clothing and absence of a personal flotation device does present some difficulties with the search,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Barry Compagnoni, the commanding officer of Sector Honolulu and the senior officer directing the search. “But, we will continue to put as many assets out there as we can. We are hopeful we’ve put together an accurate search area.”

The Coast Guard has searched more than 1,600 square miles — an area more than twice the size of the island of Maui — and has asked the HSL Squadron 37 at Marine Corps Base Hawaii for aerial assistance with the search. The HSL Squadron 37 flies SH-60 Seahawks.

Also expected to join the search are as many as five private fishing vessels from the Kailua, Kona side of the Big Island and a family friend with an aircraft. The Coast Guard will coordinate the efforts of those searchers once the patrol boat Kiska is on scene. The 18-person crew was expected to arrive on scene early this afternoon.

Weather in the area is reported to be seas of eight feet and winds from the southeast at 25 mph. Anyone with further information about the missing man is asked to contact the Coast Guard’s 24-hour Honolulu Harbor command center at 808-842-2600 or via VHF marine band radio channel 16.

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