Coast Guard suspends search for missing Celebration solo-sailor in South Pacific

HONOLULU — The Coast Guard suspended the active search Thursday for a solo-sailor aboard the 36-foot sailing vessel Celebration last reported 1,800 miles southeast of Hilo, Hawaii.

Richard Carr, 71, remains missing.

“Mr. Carr had a deep passion for sailing and was on a very long and arduous voyage,” said Capt. Robert Hendrickson, chief of response, Coast Guard 14th District. “Our thanks to all our partners and the many mariners who helped us search for this vessel in one of the most remote regions of the world in an attempt to locate Mr. Carr. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends and also to the sailing community.”

Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules and French Falcon Guardian aircrews and the crews of three commercial vessels, two of which searched with embarked helicopters, conducted 17 searches in the region without any sign of the vessel. Search and rescue personnel from Rescue Coordination Centers in Tahiti and China also assisted in communications and planning evolutions.  Fishing fleets from several Pacific nations assisted by making callouts in their areas with no response from Carr. Limited vessel traffic and a lack of land to use as aircraft staging areas reduced the number of available assets and resources.

Weather on scene the day of Carr’s last communication was reportedly 11.5 mph winds, seas to 6-feet with good visibility.

On-scene assets searched a total area of more than 59,598 square miles (51,790 square nautical miles), an area the size of Oklahoma, over the 24-day period.

Involved in the search were:

  • HC-130 Hercules airplane crews from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point working out of Tahiti 
  • French Falcon Guardian airplane crews out of Tahiti
  • Fishing Vessel American Enterprise: 258-foot U.S.-flagged seiner
  • Motor Vessel Hokuetsu Ibis: 688-foot Panamanian-flagged cargo ship
  • Fishing Vessel El Duque: 259-foot Mexican-flagged seiner

The Coast Guard recommends multiple means of communications and proper emergency equipment and supplies, such as an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) when sailing near and offshore.

May 28, watchstanders at the Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu received notification from Coast Guard 11th District watchstanders reporting Carr had communicated to his spouse via a GPS message device that he was in distress. The spouse forwarded the information to the Coast Guard and based on his last communications strongly suspected her husband was suffering from severe sleep deprivation. 

Upon notification, JRCC Honolulu issued a SafetyNet alerting vessel crews in the area to keep a sharp lookout for the Celebration and efforts to identify potential response resources began. Carr was reportedly on a voyage from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia, and had been at sea for a couple of weeks. 

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