(Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

(Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

  • Jan. 27, 2021 8:30 p.m.

PORT ANGELES — U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard crews suspended their search at 4 p.m. Wednesday for the pilot of a Cessna 170 single-engine plane that went down in rough seas south of Victoria 23 hours earlier, a Coast Guard spokesman said.

Chief Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier said the pilot, whose name he said the Coast Guard will not release for privacy reasons, was en route from Ketchikan, Alaska, to William R. Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles when his aircraft went into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, north of Ediz Hook and south of the international boundary line.

Air and sea assets conducted 22 search patterns, scouring 1,170 square miles before halting their efforts. No sign of the plane was found.

RELATED: Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

Strohmaier said the pilot was the aircraft’s lone occupant. It does not appear that he is a Washington resident; his parents live in Alaska, he said.

“We don’t have anything at all saying he’s a resident of Washington state,” he said.

“Everything they have points to him being an Alaska resident but we do not have confirmation of that.”

Strohmaier did not know if the pilot was coming to Port Angeles to refuel and fly somewhere else or to visit someone in the area.

“Unless we get further amplifying information, for example, an exact area to search, or if the [Federal Aviation Administration] gives us the exact coordinates and leads us to believe we have an exact site where the downed aircraft might be at, or the individual might have gone to shore, we just don’t know at this time, search efforts of the Coast Guard and other partner agencies have been suspended,” Strohmaier said.

Strohmaier said the pilot issued a Mayday call late Tuesday afternoon that was received by Rite Bros. Aviation of Port Angeles.

The company, based at Fairchild, reported it to the Peninsula Communication 9-1-1 center in Port Angeles, which notified the Coast Guard at 4:55 p.m.

Jeff Well, president of Rite Bros., said he received the pilot’s Mayday call at 4:40 p.m.

“He said, ‘Mayday, Mayday, I’m going down in the water,” Well recalled Tuesday evening.

The pilot did not appear to be familiar with the area, Well said.

“I asked him to say your location, and he didn’t respond.

“I said, ‘Are you east or west of Port Angeles?’

“He said, ‘I’m going down behind a boat pulling a barge,’ and then, nothing else.”

Well said Wednesday morning a local pilot scoured the approximate area where the pilot went down.

“It was 20 minutes before sunset, and the Straits were just a frothy mess,” he recalled.

“The weather conditions and stuff made it real difficult to see anything with the rough seas.

“Just knowing the conditions, it was just frustrating I couldn’t do more.”

Well declined to identify the pilot, saying he has been in contact with the man’s family. He thought they might live in Kodiak.

Well said they told him the Cessna’s GPS tracker gave the southern tip of Vancouver Island as the pilot’s last known location.

Strohmaier said the pilot hugged Vancouver Island’s Inside Passage before traversing the Strait around Victoria.

“The biggest stretch of open water was going from Victoria to Port Angeles,” he said.

Strohmaier said water and air assets were dispatched from Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and the Canadian Coast Guard.

The 87-foot Coast Guard patrol boats Adelie and Terrapin Wednesday morning in 12-knot winds. The Canadian Coast Guard’s 272-foot buoy-laying vessel Sir Wilfrid Laurier also joined the effort.

Helicopters from the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island assisted as well as a Canadian fixed-wing aircraft before the search was called off.

— Paul Gottlieb, Peninsula Daily News, pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com. For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Clallam County

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A proposed multi-family, multi-building development in east White Rock was the subject of a public hearing Monday evening. (City of White Rock image)
Pros and cons of White Rock housing development debated at virtual public hearing

Affordable housing need, traffic concerns among reasons cited for and against Beachway project

Photo: Surrey RCMP
Surrey RCMP arrests two boys, age 16, during dial-a-dope investigation in Whalley

Sergeant Elenore Sturko said one boy is ‘alleged to have been in possession of a loaded handgun at the time of his arrest’

The new Phoenix Flame BBQ truck serves as a “Mobile Community Kitchen” in the Surrey area. (Photo: phoenixsociety.com)
New ‘Phoenix Flame BBQ’ truck now mobile with food for Surrey’s ‘hard-to-reach populations’

Also launched: Another Surrey Honda Raffle to help the Surrey-based agency and others

Teachers at Maple Green Elementary in Surrey stage a walk-in before school on Wednesday (March 3, 2021), as Fraser Health continues to announce variant exposure cases at Surrey schools throughout the district. (Submitted photo: Julia MacRae)
Surrey Teachers’ Association calls for district-specific COVID-19 safety measures

STA holds third and fourth walk-ins after multiple COVID-19 variant exposures

A memorial of flowers, notes and photos grew quickly on the median adjacent to where Paul Prestbakmo died on Aug. 16. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Witness in South Surrey murder trial says he saw Paul Prestbakmo get stabbed

Defence questions difference between witness’ statements to police, testimony

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

Emergency crews are on scene at Walnut Grove Secondary School after a report of a bomb threat at Walnut Grove Secondary School on March 3, 2021. The school was safely evacuated. (Shane MacKichan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
UPDATE: Bomb threat forces evacuation of Langley high school

Police asked the public to avoid 88th Avenue and Walnut Grove Drive

Most Read