Coast Guard suspends search for missing Maui snorkeler after 3-day search

HONOLULU — The U.S. Coast Guard suspended the search today for Bryce Essler, a 20-year-old Canadian man first reported missing Thursday afternoon off Kaanapali, Maui.

The Coast Guard notified his family and officially suspended its search, pending any developments, at approximately 6 p.m.

The Coast Guard coordinated search pattern for 34 different search sorties by surface and air assets that combed a total search area of 2,714 square miles, a search area that would encompass the islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe. The search area focused on a last-known position approximately 100 yards from the beach.

Search and rescue planners used computer drift models which factor wind and sea currents and on scene conditions to produce a search area that was extremely focused. Since first arriving on scene at noon Thursday, the Coast Guard searched continuously with crews aboard rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, an 87-foot patrol boat and a 45-response boat.

The Coast Guard coordinated closely with Maui Fire Department officials to scour an area triangular in shape and covering almost all the waters between Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe. The Coast Guard’s senior-most officer responsible for the search, Capt. Barry Compagnoni, says he is confident the search area scoured yielded the most probable location for Essler.

“It’s heart-breaking when anyone is lost at sea,” said Capt. Compagnoni, who talked with Essler’s family earlier today and after deciding to suspend the search. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family because suspending a search is probably the most difficult thing we do in the Coast Guard. But, in this case, we simply have no place else to look.”

Today, air crews aboard an HH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter and a C-130 long-range search aircraft — both from Air Station Barbers Point on Oahu — were on scene. Crews aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Ahi, a Honolulu-based 87-foot patrol boat, and a 45-foot response boat from Station Maui at Maalaea Harbor also assisted with the search.

Members from the Coast Guard Auxiliary piloted an aircraft to assist in the search this morning and search plans were shared with Maui County Ocean Safety personnel to best cover near-shore areas. Searchers reported weather on scene today as light winds from the east-northeast at 10-12 knots and seas of one to two feet.

Also assisting during the three-day search were rescue crews from the Maui Fire Department and MFD officials met frequently with Essler’s family.

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