UPDATED 4:30 PM, APRIL 3rd, 2018
The Coast Guard suspended their search Monday night (04-02-18) for Sean Poffenbarger, a Sitka boater reported missing since Sunday. The Alaska State Troopers are continuing their search for him, with help from the Sitka Fire DepartmenCt dive team.
Poffenbarger and Sean Elliot of Elfin Cove were last seen on a vessel in transit from Sitka to Saook Point.
After the emergency distress signal on their boat activated Sunday morning, the U.S. Coast Guard launched a Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Sitka. The helicopter crew found the 18-foot vessel overturned, having run aground in Peril Strait, and Elliot’s body on a beach in Goose Cove.
A multi-agency team, which included crews from the Coast Guard, Alaska State Troopers, and Sitka Mountain Rescue, then searched a 77 square mile area for 35 hours in an effort to locate Poffenbarger.
In a statement, Coast Guard Lieutenant Matthew Spado (spay-dough) said, “We canvassed the water and adjacent shoreline in Peril Strat with air, boat, and ground crews for two days to find the missing man. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Sean Poffenbarger during this difficult time.”
Alaska State Troopers are leading the search effort now. Today, the Sitka Fire Department dive team sent an emergency rescue vehicle to the area. Equipped with side-scan sonar, the ERV took pictures of the bottom of the ocean floor. Fire Chief Dave Miller said those images are being monitored now.
UPDATED 4:00 PM, APRIL 2ND, 2018
One man is dead and another missing after their boat overturned in Peril Strait Sunday afternoon (04-01-18), about 30 miles north of Sitka.
According to a press release, the deceased is 49-year-old Sean Elliot of Elfin Cove. A helicopter crew from Air Station Sitka located his body on a beach in Goose Cove. The missing person is 45-year-old Sean Poffenbarger of Sitka.
At 8:25 a.m. on Sunday, an inReach device on Poffenbarger’s vessel activated while in transit from Sitka to Saook Point. Juneau-based Alaska State Troopers then notified watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Juneau.
An Air Station Sitka MH-60 helicopter crew launched into the night. They spotted an overturned 18-foot vessel across the strait from Poison Cove, which matched the description of the vessel in distress. The crew deployed a rescue swimmer to comb the beach while continuing aerial search patterns.
The search is ongoing for Poffenbarger and response has been swift, with a boat crew from the Alaska Wildlife Troopers joining the Sitka Emergency Response vessel, Sitka Dive Team, Sitka Mountain Rescue, and the U.S. Forest Service. The Coast Guard Cutter John McCormick is also en route to assist.
Both Elliot and Poffenbarger’s next of kin have been notified.
Anyone with additional information about Poffenbarger or his voyage should call the Sector Juneau Command Center at 907-463-2980. A previous version of this story mistakenly said that Poffenbarger and Elliot’s emergency distress signal activated at 8:25 in the evening.