Coast Guard suspends search for missing free diver near Big Island

AhiHONOLULU — The Coast Guard suspended the search Saturday for a missing 55-year-old free diver who has been missing since Wednesday off the Big Island of Hawaii.

“The suspension of an active search and rescue case without definitive resolution is one of the most difficult decisions to make,” said Capt. Shannon Gilreath, commanding officer at Coast Guard Sector Honolulu. “We have saturated the area in an attempt to locate Mr. Salis but, pending further developments, we have decided to suspend the active search. Our prayers go out to the family.”

On-scene assets conducted 22 sorties, searched approximately 3,000 square miles and deployed three self-locating datum marker buoys.

Involved in the search were an HC-130 Hercules airplane crew and MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Coast Guard Cutter Cutter Ahi and a Coast Guard Auxiliary airplane. Hawaii County Fire Department dive teams, rescue boat, and helicopter crews also searched.

Watchstanders at the Sector received a report at 2:40 a.m. Thursday from a relative and friend reporting the diver missing. They were diving with Loren “Jamie” Salis and last saw him at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday wearing a black wetsuit in the vicinity of North Kohala, Big Island, at the end of Old Coast Guard Road.

The watchstanders immediately issued an urgent marine information broadcast, launched the Dolphin crew, and dispatched the Coast Guard Cutter Ahi crew.

The Dolphin crew arrived on scene and located a submerged dive light, but it was undetermined if the diver was in the area of the light when it was sighted. Hawaii County Fire Department divers have since recovered the light and a fishing spear, but the diver remains missing.

The disappearance of the diver does not appear to be connected to Wednesday night’s tsunami advisory as his disappearance took place several hours prior to the forecasted arrival of any earthquake generated waves or currents.

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