VOCAL EXERCISES - Artist in the Schools instructor Sarah Branton of Cherry Creek, Colorado, leads an exercise in the Sitka High School band room this morning as she teaches students how to improve their volume. Branton will be here all week working with choirs at Blatchley Middle School and Sitka High. Her instruction is part of the effort to rebuild school  choir programs and numbers following the pandemic. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Boat Sinking Leaves Four Aboard Missing


Sentinel Staff Writer

The Coast Guard suspended its search Monday night for four people missing since a 30-foot charter fishing boat sank in Sitka Sound on Sunday.

After the boat, with five people aboard, was reported overdue returning from a day fishing trip on Sunday, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka launched a search helicopter at 7 p.m. Shortly afterward the helicopter crew sighted the partially submerged charter boat just off Low Island on the southeast end of Kruzof Island, and retrieved a body from the water.

Authorities said that in the intensive air, sea and ground search effort since then, none of the four others on the boat has been found. The aluminum charter boat has remained mostly submerged but tossed around in the rough seas just off the rocky coastline on the south end of Kruzof Island.

The decision to call off the search came at 9:30 p.m. Monday, after 20 hours of searching by Coast Guard helicopters, a C-130 plane from Kodiak, and Coast Guard vessels, good Samaritan boats and the Sitka Fire Department.

“Despite our best efforts and those of several partner agencies, we were not able to find the four remaining individuals,” Capt. Darwin Jensen, captain of the port for Southeast Alaska, said in a news announcement.

“Suspending a search is never an easy decision,” he said. “We extend our deepest sympathy to the loved ones during this difficult time. Our sincere thanks to community partners and the good Samaritan vessels who rapidly responded to help in the search.”

The search started Sunday evening after Kingfisher Charters reported around 5 p.m. that a 30-foot charter vessel with a skipper and four passengers aboard was overdue. 

The first Coast Guard Air Station Sitka helicopter took off around 7 p.m. and soon sighted the bow section of the missing boat extending above the water near Low Island. The body of one person was recovered from the water and brought back to Sitka. Helicopters continued searching until late that night and started at first light Monday, joined by the USCG Aids to Navigation 38-foot vessel, a Kodiak C-130 Hercules plane, and the rapid response vessel Douglas Denman from Ketchikan.

Sitka Fire Department also participated, its search and rescue team conducting a shoreline search from Shoals Point to the Fred’s Creek cabin on the southeast corner of Kruzof. The lateness of the hour and rough sea conditions ruled out a search by volunteers and staff Sunday night.

On Monday the dive team found the charter vessel “semi-afloat” with the bow sticking up, and bouncing off the bottom in rough seas, Fire Chief Craig Warren said.

He said the divers attempted to look in the boat, but couldn’t see much through the seaweed and debris inside the boat.

“We had a dive team enter the water to get near the boat,” Warren said, adding. “When a boat is bobbing like that, it’s extremely dangerous and they had trouble approaching safely. Divers determined they were not going to be able to get inside the boat until it is secured. The divers are all volunteers, who are good in static situations. And with the dynamic of the boat bobbing, it being upended and pounding on the ground, there were too many safety concerns that we cannot mitigate.”

At that point, around midday Monday, the Coast Guard informed the fire department that the Sitka salvage company Hanson Maritime would be securing the vessel.

“It’s always better in this type of situation to put this in the hands of professional salvage operators,” the chief said.

Warren said from a preliminary assessment, it appeared that the stern of the boat was damaged, and he was told the outboard engines were gone. From what divers could see initially there was no apparent damage to the bottom of the vessel, he said.

A number of good Samaritan vessels took part in the search effort Sunday and Monday.

The Coast Guard in announcing the search was suspended, estimated the size of the search area as more than 825 square miles.

The Coast Guard is investigating the accident, and said it’s not known how the vessel came to be submerged. Alaska State Troopers also are investigating. Tim Despain, spokesman for the troopers, said troopers are notifying next of kin, and communicating with the Coast Guard, but plan to release the names once that has occurred.


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At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






September 2003

Sitka Tribe of Alaska is “upset and disturbed” about the Senate appropriations bill that cuts spending for Alaska tribal courts, STA Vice Chairman Gil Truitt said today. He was referring to Sen. Ted Stevens’ move to divert Department of Justice grants from tribal courts and tribal police officers to fund the Village Public Safety Officer program.



September 1973

Photo caption: Receiving service pins at a Carpenters Union Local 466 dinner meeting at the Kiksadi Club were, from left, Arthur Littlefield, Alvin Helm, Harley Finch, Dave Gibson, Gerald Hughes, Fred Nelson, Walter Moy, Edward Nelson, William Sutton and Don Stromme.


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