(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

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of March 7

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Suzie Kruse recently checked out the Haney Wharf. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Waterfront popular with shutterbugs in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

Ron Paley recently took advantage of some sun and warmth to ride his bike around Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows (Special to The News)
SHARE: Exploring Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

A map of CP’s proposed logistics park.
Pitt Meadows seeks end to ‘unfair taxation’ benefiting CP Rail

City lobbying other municipalities to ask B.C. government to end tax break

Dean and Shannon Joanisse.
Maple Ridge curling club weathers COVID-19

Golden Ears Winter Club closing soon, hopes for Labour Day bonspiel

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

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

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

The family of injured Willoughby resident Ronald Gerald Jesso is hoping someone saw something that will help solve the mystery of how he came to be so badly hurt on the morning of Feb. 22. Jesso is still in hospital. (Jesso family/Special to Langley Advance Times)
An appeal to help solve the mystery of an injured Langley man

Family of Ronald Gerald Jesso asks witnesses to come forward

Most Read