JUNEAU, Alaska — The U.S. Coast Guard suspended the active search for a missing boater from Montesano, although one was found unresponsive and a third was found alive after their 24-foot recreational vessel sunk near Baranof Island over the weekend, according to a press release from the U.S. Coast Guard.
Dennis Monroe, 46, of Montesano, was found alive, but fellow friends Fred Swenson, also of Montesano, and John Reid of Sitka — a Montesano High School graduate — went missing in the water. The Anchorage Daily News reported that Reid was later found dead in the water by good samaritans, but Swenson was never recovered.
“Suspending a case is one of the hardest decisions that we as search and rescuers have to make and our thoughts and prayers are with the families,” stated Scott Giard, a command duty officer with Coast Guard Sector Juneau, in a press release. “We appreciate the support of our partner agencies and good Samaritans to put as many resources on scene as possible and maximize our chances of locating these boaters.”
“We just pray that they find him,” said Rebecca Blumberg, who answered the phone at the Swenson family residence on Monday morning. Her sister, Kathleen, is Fred’s wife. The couple has two young boys.
“They’re doing all right,” Blumberg said of her sister and nephews. “Of course, it is hard. They have good moments and bad moments. We just want closure, so if they find him it would be great.”
Blumberg said that Fred Swenson, 42, worked for the state Department of Social and Health Services in Olympia. She said he made fishing trips such as this fateful one to Alaska numerous times.
“He looked forward to those trips with these guys — he’d made six or seven of them,” Blumberg said. “It was one of his most favorite things to do.”
Blumberg said the Swenson family had Monroe — the lone survivor who returned to his home in Satsop over the weekend — in their thoughts.
“We’re so happy that Dennis was able to get home,” she said. “He’s in our prayers because he’s struggling right now and must be having a hard time with this.”
Acording to the Anchorage Daily News, after the boat sank Swenson and Monroe managed to swim to a rock halfway to shore, where they could see Reid struggling in the water before being swept out of sight, according to the Daily News report.
Then, as the rising tide forced the two remaining men from the rock, only Monroe was able to make it the 100 yards to shore. He spent a cold night clad only in a tank top, jeans, and his life jacket, Ipsen said. The next day, he found a reflective fishing lure and used it to signal for help; he was ultimately picked up by a fishing boat, the Otter, and driven back to Sitka in good condition.
Good samaritans aboard another fishing vessel located Reid in the water, unresponsive, late Saturday afternoon. Reid was recovered and flown to Air Station Sitka aboard the Jayhawk helicopter and transferred to emergency medical personnel. Rescue crews also located debris from the vessel. Swenson remains missing.
Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews, a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Air Station Kodiak, the Coast Guard Cutter Chandeleur, a Canadian coast guard DeHavilland Dash 8 operated by a Transport Canada crew, a Civil Air Patrol airplane crew and good Samaritans aboard several fishing vessels conducted multiple searches totaling 47 hours between them and covering more than 1,224 square miles in the vicinity of the island and Redfish Bay from Friday morning to Saturday night, according to the Coast Guard press release.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Juneau received a report of the people in the water from the survivor of the sinking over VHF-FM Channel 16 radio Friday morning following his rescue, the press release states. The watchstanders immediately issued an urgent marine information broadcast requesting the assistance of mariners in the area and directed the launch of the Jayhawk helicopter and cutter crews.
The survivor reported the aluminum drop bow landing craft they were using sank at about 8 p.m. Thursday night while en route on a hunting and fishing trip and that all three people had attempted to swim to shore wearing float coats.
Weather conditions on scene during the search were reportedly 12 to 23 mph winds and 4 to 6-foot seas with good visibility, according to the press release. The water temperature for southeast Alaska in August is in the 50s.