Search for missing Chuuk boys in Federated States of Micronesia waters to continue

HAGATNA, Guam — U.S. Coast Guard crews aboard a C-130 long range search aircraft will continue to scour a small area of ocean approximately 270 nautical miles west of Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia for two young boys missing for nearly seven days.

The boys were reported missing to the Coast Guard at 4:40 p.m. Guam Standard Time, Wednesday, Feb. 18. The boys were last seen on Sunday, Feb. 15 while paddling an outrigger canoe between islands 150 nautical miles west of Chuuk in the FSM.

Coast Guard Sector Guam is coordinating the search from its 24-hour Rescue Sub Center, with help from search and rescue controllers at the Joint Rescue Command Center in Honolulu. The C-130 aircraft and crew are based at Air Station Barbers Point on Oahu.

The 18-person crew aboard the Coast Guard patrol boat Washington, based out of Guam, is expected to arrive in the search area tomorrow evening. This will be a transit of more than 400 nautical miles.

At dusk Friday, the crew aboard the C-130 spotted the boys in a location 128 nautical miles west of their starting point.

The C-130 crew was able to drop a survival kit containing a radio, food, water and signaling devices but had to depart the scene and return to Guam because they were running low on fuel. The C-130 crew reported the boys were able to recover the survival kit.

After the C-130 crew reported the boys’ position, Coast Guard search and rescue controllers in Guam diverted a Good Samaritan vessel, the 820-foot bulk carrier Brilliant Century to the scene. Once there, the crew of the vessel found the canoe with one boy in the water swimming.

The Brilliant Century’s crew tossed a life ring to the boy in the water, but heavy seas and current prevented the boy from reaching it. In the dark, the ship’s crew later found the canoe without the boys, but filled with water and a strobe light from the survival kit dropped by the C-130’s crew.

A crew aboard a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion long-range aircraft from Kadena Air Base in Japan was diverted and arrived on scene later to continue the search effort, along with the crew of another Good Samaritan vessel, the Sanqua.

The weather last night was reported by rescuers to be rough with strong currents. Winds were out of the east at 15 knots, with gusts of 20 knots and seas of 8 feet.

“This is a very remote area with no search and rescue resources nearby,” said Capt. David Swatland, Chief of Response for the Fourteenth Coast Guard District in Honolulu, and the senior operations officer for U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue assets in the Central Pacific.

“While Coast Guard and Navy fixed wing aircraft were successful in locating the canoe, darkness and weather conditions have prevented anyone from actually rescuing the two boys. We will continue searching today and look forward to having cutter Washington on scene tomorrow evening.”

The U.S. Coast Guard reminds mariners in the Marianas and Caroline Islands to immediately report overdue mariners to the 24-hour Rescue Sub Center in Guam, at 671-564-USCG or via VHF marine band channel 16.

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