'Good Samaritans' assisting in search for downed airplane off Victoria, B.C.
A U.S.Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Port Angeles is seen in this undated file photo. (Twitter: USCGPacificNW)
VICTORIA -- Local fishermen and civilian boaters have joined in the search for a small plane that went down in the waters between Victoria, B.C. and Port Angeles, Wash. Tuesday evening with one man on board.
Military aircraft and coast guard vessels from both sides of the international border searched all night for the single-engine Cessna 170 aircraft and its pilot.
By Wednesday morning, no wreckage or sign of the pilot had been found.
“Right now we’re going to be continuing the search as if we’re searching for a family member,” said U.S. Coast Guard petty officer Steve Strohmaier on Wednesday morning.
“We don’t have any plans to stop at this point,” Strohmaier said. “We’ll continue until hopefully we find any parts of the plane, or the person.”
Washington state air traffic controllers received a mayday call from the small craft as it approached the Port Angeles airport just before 5 p.m. The flight was making its descent from Ketchikan, Alaska when communication with the pilot was lost over the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
“Two (U.S.) coast guard vessels continue to search along with some Good Samaritans who showed up,” Strohmaier said. “We had some fishing boats that showed up to assist with the search.”
Rescuers are still unsure whether the aircraft had an emergency locator beacon or marine survival equipment on board.
“We do not know what kind of survival or rescue gear were on board this aircraft and that’s why we’re still analyzing what we might find and utilizing local radio beacons,” said Strohmaier. “Nor do we know what kind of survival gear he might have had or would have been able to put on. At this point we’re just not sure.”
The pilot’s parents have been notified of the downed plane and they have confirmed the pilot was the sole occupant of the aircraft, he said.
Overnight search conditions were "tough, with it being windy and wavy," Strohmaier said, adding that conditions had improved Wednesday.
"In addition to looking with the naked eye, we have infrared cameras, as well as radar, to be helping us on the surface of the water," he said. "We're hoping this pilot had survival gear on board and was able to maybe don a life jacket or some sort of survival gear and either is still out there or was able to come to shore."
The Canadian Coast Guard vessel Sir Wilfred Laurier was assisting in the search from Victoria. A Royal Canadian Air Force CC-115 Buffalo airplane from 19 Wing Comox scoured the waters Tuesday night before returning to base.
A U.S. Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Port Angeles renewed its search off the Washington coast at first light Wednesday morning.
“The search patterns are now located north and northwest of Port Angeles, reaching out into the central area of the Strait of Juan de Fuca,” the U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson said.