ANCHORAGE, Alaska Coast Guard officials said shortly before 9:00 p.m. Wednesday that they have suspended the search for five missing fishermen who were aboard a boat near Sutwik Island.
The search, officials said, spanned more than 20 hours and 1,400 square miles.
"The decision to suspend an active search and rescue case is never easy, and it's only made after careful consideration of a myriad of factors,” said Rear Adm. Matthew Bell, 17th District Commander, via an emailed release Wednesday. "Our deepest condolences to the friends and families impacted by this tragedy."
Two survivors were lifted from a life raft after MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and HC-130 Hercules airplane crews launched from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak. Watchstanders at the 17th District Command Center in Juneau received a mayday call on Tuesday from the fishing vessel Scandies Rose, which had capsized and sank bout five miles southeast of Sutwik Island.
A Coast Guard official also told Channel 2 on Wednesday night that a second life raft had been located, but no one was found on it.
ORIGINAL STORY: Coast Guard crews are searching for five people Wednesday after their fishing boat sank during rough weather west of Kodiak.
The F/V Scandies Rose, a 130-foot crab fishing vessel based out of Dutch Harbor, sank at approximately 10 p.m. Tuesday with seven people on board.
Two survivors were rescued but five people are still missing.
Melissa McKenzie, a public affairs officer for the US Coast Guard, said that after receiving the mayday call, dispatchers put together two response aircraft that departed the Kodiak Air Station at about 11:30 p.m.
A Jayhawk helicopter located two lifeboats in the area of the last reported position of the boat - 170 miles west of Kodiak - around 2 a.m., but one was empty. The two survivors, both wearing survival suits, were hoisted from the life raft and taken to the Kodiak Hospital, where they are reportedly in stable condition.
Meanwhile, the search continues over an isolated 300-square-mile area.
Weather will likely be a complicating factor for the search. There are said to be 40 mph winds, 15 to 20-foot seas and one-mile visibility. Currently, a C-130 is the only aircraft or vessel on the scene, according to McKenzie.
"I've heard the report from the pilot that the on-scene conditions for our aircraft are not good," she said.
The Coast Guard Cutter Mellon is currently en route to the scene from the Bering Sea to complement the aerial search but isn't expected to arrive until Tuesday evening.
Weather conditions were rough at the time of the accident at the time of the vessel's capsizing. Upon receiving the mayday, McKenzie said that the coast guard put out an urgent broadcast to vessels in the area, but nobody was able to assist.
"At the time of this event, the current conditions were just really, really bad," she said, "So either there weren't vessels in the area who were close enough to assist or the weather conditions were so bad that they couldn't assist because it was beyond their safety parameters."
As to why it took an hour and a half for aircraft to depart on the search, McKenzie said that coordinating a rescue in a large and remote area required planning and preparation that took time.
"They have to go through and try to figure out where the vessel was and then they get through the process of drafting up a search area and then in that same time, while this is all happening behind the scenes, the Coast Guard crews gassing up the airplanes and getting their crews ready and onboard and taking off," she said.