The Coast Guard is searching for an aircraft carrying three people that disappeared about 20 miles west of Kake, Alaska on Tuesday.
Coast Guard Sector Juneau watchstanders received a warning from the Sitka Flight Service Station that a twin-engine Guardian King Air 200 medical flight was due to land at the village of Kake — about 635 miles southeast of Anchorage on the northwest shore of Kupreanof Island — at 6:19 p.m. Tuesday but never made it.
Guardian Flight issued a statement saying that a pilot, nurse and paramedic were on the plane when it disappeared. In an email to Navy Times, company spokesman Jim Gregory confirmed that they were flying to Kake “in order to pick up a patient for transport.”
Homeported in Petersburg — about 60 miles from the last known position of the plane — the 110-foot cutter Anacapa was ordered to search for the aircraft.
Good Samaritan vessels also have joined the hunt for the missing crew.
“Coast Guard crews are diligently searching for the missing aircraft and individuals,” said Lt j.g. Colin McClelland, Coast Guard Sector Juneau command duty officer in a written statement emailed to Navy Times.
“We appreciate the assistance of the good Samaritan vessels and we hope we locate the aircraft and people soon.”
Juneau watchstanders are holding out hope that they can reach and rescue the missing crew. The weather overnight in the search area showed light rain with overcast skies, 10 miles of visibility and sustained winds at 7 miles per hour with an air temperature of 36 degrees.
Randy Lyman, Senior Vice President of Operations for Guardian Flight, issued a statement on the company’s official website saying that he’s grounding its “entire fleet until further information is available" and pledged to cooperate fully with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration on probes into the cause of the mishap.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to our fellow employees and their families during this very trying time,” Lyman wrote.
Coast Guard rescues in the waters around Kake aren’t uncommon.
In 2002, the Petersburg-based cutter Elderberry joined with Glacier Valley Fire and Rescue to evacuate and treat five passengers on board a LAB Airlines plane that made an emergency landing on Kupreanof Island.
The pilot’s window had been splattered in oil, obstructing his vision, and a Coast Guard Air Station Sitka helicopter crew directed him to make a safe landing on a sandbar.
Over the nine months, the cutter Anacapa alone has assisted in the rescue of the grounded cruise ship Alaskan Dream and saved the operator of another vessel that broke apart near the Barrier Islands.
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.