PORT ANGELES — U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard crews continued their search this morning for a Cessna 170 single-engine plane that went down in rough seas between Vancouver Island and Washington State shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said.
Chief Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier said the pilot, whose name has not been released, 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 south of the international boundary line.
Strohmaier said the pilot was the aircraft’s lone occupant.
“Hopefully, with the daylight hours and the winds slightly coming down, we might be able to find something,” he said. “We don’t know if he had survival gear on board that might have helped him through the night.”
Strohmaier said the pilot issued a Mayday call late Tuesday afternoon that was received by Rite Bros. Aviation of Port Angeles, which reported it to the Peninsula Communication 9-1-1 center in Port Angeles. Pencom reported it to 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,” he 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 this 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 in Alaska.
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 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 were searching for the Cessna this morning in 12-knot winds, or about 14 mph. 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 have assisted as well as a Canadian fixed-wing aircraft.
— Paul Gottlieb, Peninsula Daily News. For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.