A sailor disappeared from the guided-missile cruiser Lake Erie off the coast of California early Sunday and Navy and Coast Guard crews are canvassing a wide area looking for him.

Shipmates began searching for the sailor around 7 a.m. Sunday in California the service member failed to report for duty, according to a joint statement sent to Navy Times by the Point Loma-based 3rd Fleet and the U.S. Coast Guard’s 11th District headquarters in Alameda.

The Ticonderoga-class Lake Erie was operating with the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group.

The aircraft carrier is homeported in Bremerton but the cruiser had sailed from San Diego and is not typically assigned to the strike group.

The Lake Erie’s crew conducted man overboard procedures and the strike group immediately began searching with vessels and aircraft. The sailor’s next of kin were notified, according to 3rd Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. John Fage.

By mid-morning on Sunday the Coast Guard had scrambled aircraft from across California, including a medium range MH-60T Jayhawk recovery helicopter from San Diego and two C-27J Spartan medium range surveillance aircraft from Sacramento.

By late afternoon Monday off the coast of California, the Coast Guard had canvassed 4,835 square miles of ocean. The aviators rely on a software system that takes into account the known path of a vessel, sea conditions, tide patterns, weather and other factors to narrow where a lost sailor might be.

Water temperatures off Baja are relatively warm and the Coast Guard is treating the case as if the sailor is wearing a life jacket or clinging to something that floats.

“We’re still in that window,” said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll, a career helicopter pilot.

Compounding the headache for rescuers is the inability to pinpoint when the sailor fell overboard. The longer a sailor remains in the water the more likely hypothermia will set in.

Kroll said that Coast Guard aircraft will continue rescue operations until the sailor is discovered or the search is called off.

When asked if the Lake Erie had been sailing about 115 miles southwest of San Diego participating in a planned Composite Training Unit Exercise and Joint Task Force Exercise with the Stennis, 3rd Fleet’s Fage would only say that the warship is “supporting the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group during routine training.”

The Lake Erie recently participated in the Rim of the Pacific exercise off the coast of Hawaii. RIMPAC wrapped up on Aug. 2.

Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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