(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

Delta Mayor George Harvie. (Submitted photo)
Mayor asks Fraser Health to reconcider North Delta vaccination site

Harvie wants a North Delta clinic to complement the South Delta location

Surrey RCMP are investigating a reported assault at Panorama Ridge Secondary. (Shane MacKichan photos)
UPDATE: Two youths arrested after assault with a weapon at Panorama Ridge Secondary in Surrey

School placed on a ‘hold and secure’ until safety of all students confirmed

Image Surrey.ca
Surrey to pony up one-third of cost to cover Cloverdale lacrosse box in 2022

This will be at the Cloverdale Athletic Park at 64th Avenue and 168th Street

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

On some blocks in North Delta it was nearly end-to-end refuse during the city’s 2018 Spring Clean-Up. (James Smith photo)
Delta’s Large Item Pick-Up Program starts today

Beginning March 1, residents will be able to dispose of up to four large household items per year

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’

Shipping containers are seen at the Fairview Cove Container Terminal in Halifax on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Canadian economy contracted 5.4 per cent in 2020, worst year on record

Drop was largely due to shutdowns in the spring as COVID began to spread

The Nanaimo Clippers in action at Frank Crane Arena in early 2020. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Clippers for sale, owner says hockey won’t be back to normal any time soon

Wes Mussio says he’s had numerous inquiries about the junior A club already

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on October 27, 2020. The City of Vancouver says it has purchased a former hotel at a major thoroughfare that can house about 65 units to accommodate homeless people. A joint news release by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and city says 2075 Kingsway, Days Inn by Wyndham Vancouver, will be ready for accommodation this November. The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen also announced a $51.5 million Rapid Housing Initiative for Vancouver that is expected to create 135 new affordable homes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Former Vancouver hotel to be converted to 65 units for homeless people by the fall

The former Days Inn on Kingsway will be ready to house people in November

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Most Read