(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 9:30 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 dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

The Site C Dam location is seen along the Peace River in Fort St. John, B.C., Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The cost of British Columbia’s Site C hydroelectric dam has grown to $16 billion and the completion has been moved up a year to 2025. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BC Liberal energy critic blasts ‘lack of transparency’ on Site C

MLA Tom Shypitka says Site C going ahead is a ‘good thing’, blames NDP for mismanagement

Volunteers from the Elk River Alliance cleared 14 car batteries from the Elk River near Elkford this week. (Photo contributed)
Elk River Alliance to move to more holistic environmental monitoring

The details of the ERA’s 2021 program will be discussed at the AGM next month

The Kitimat RCMP responded to false alarms, an apartment fire and more between Jan. 29 to Feb. 3, 2021. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Sparwood backs campaign to study Surrey RCMP impact

The City of Surrey is home to the largest RCMP detachment in the province

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

(Pxhere)
Compensation fund opens for B.C. students negatively affected by incorrect exam marks

Marks for 2019 provincial exams were incorrectly tabulated

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

The humanoid sensing robot has a 3D printed finger cap that measures oxygen levels. (Dr. Woo Soo Kim)
Medical care robots being made with 3D origami in B.C. lab

Would you let a robot take your temperature?

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent must come first and last for B.C. industrial projects

UN declaration seen as end to a history of horror stories

FILE  - In this Friday, Jan 1, 2021 file photo, a lorry driver's documents are scanned on a phone as he passes a checkpoint for the train through the Eurotunnel link with Europe in Folkestone, England. One month after Britain made a New Year split from the European Union's economic embrace, businesses that once traded freely are getting used to frustrating checks, delays and red tape. Meat exporters say shipments have rotted in trucks awaiting European health checks. Scottish fishermen have protested at Parliament over the catch they can no longer sell to the continent because of byzantine new paperwork. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)
FINLAYSON: Government should focus on strengthening B.C.’s leading export industries

To revive the economy, this piece in the strategy is integral, writes Jock Finlayson

Most Read