September 23, 2004
An official from the Anchorage Federal Aviation Administration notified the Coast Guard Monday at 1:40 p.m. of an overdue Harris Air Beaver float plane with five people on board. Two Air Station Sitka Jayhawk helicopter crews dispatched to search for the missing plane's occupants.
The helicopter crews searched from Sitka to Baranof Warm Springs and through the most likely routes the pilot may have flown the aircraft to reach its destination.
The missing individuals are identified as Jim Murphy of Sequim, Wash; twin brother Joe Murphy of Bremerton, Wash; Jerry Balmer, Dick Conig and the pilot, Eric Johnson of Sitka.
Rescuers searched until 7 p.m. Monday and resumed at sunrise Tuesday when they searched the Beaver's route again and nearby forest areas. The search continued into the night with a Jayhawk crew performing another search of the water, shoreline and forest canopy using night vision equipment. Coast Guard aircrews found no sign of the people or aircraft.
The search resumed Wednesday morning with scheduled searches along the western shore of Kruzof Island and Salisbury Sound. Two CAP aircraft teams also searched Chatham Strait. The crew aboard Coast Guard cutter Maple, a 225-foot seagoing buoy tender, was also in Peril Strait Wednesday assisting in the search and serving as the on scene search commander.
As of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday Air Station Sitka air crews flew about 20 hours covering about 1,200 miles of shoreline while searching for the aircraft's missing occupants.
Sitka's weather Wednesday included
temperatures ranging between 45 and 50 degrees, 10 mile-per-hour
winds from the east, southeast becoming southwesterly and increasing
to 30 knots. The seas are measured at 13 feet with rain throughout
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