September 24, 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. Air Station Sitka Jayhawk helicopter crews dispatched to search for the missing plane's occupants.
The missing individuals are identified as Jim Murphy of Sequim, Wash; twin brother Joe Murphy of Bremerton, Wash; Jerry Balmer, Lloyd Koenig of Pleasanton, Calif (previously, incorrectly identified and Dick Conig) and the pilot, Eric Johnson of Sitka.
Aircrews completed searches from Sitka to Baranof Warm SpringBay and through the most likely routes the pilot may have flown the aircraft to reach its destination. Other searches examined the shoreline, nearby forest areas, the western shore of Kruzof Island, Salisbury Sound, Chatham Strait and Peril Strait. Jayhawk crews continued searching Tuesday night using night vision equipment. Search crews found no sign of the people or aircraft.
As of midnight Wednesday, Air Station Sitka aircrews flight times totalled about 40 hours, covering an estimated 2,400 miles of shoreline while searching for the aircraft's missing occupants.
The focus of Thursday's search was Emmons Island. Coast Guard aircrews began using foward looking infrared (FLIR) during their searches.
The FLIR system scans an operator-selected portion of the terrain along the aircraft's flight path and displays a televised image of the infrared patterns of the terrain. The primary function of the FLIR system is to give the operator an improved capability to detect, identify, and classify targets of interest that would otherwise be concealed from either visual observation or radar detection.
Due to challenging weather conditions, rain and low visibility, flights conducted by the CAP, Good Samaritan and Harris Air aircraft teams have been delayed.
Sitka's weather Thursday included an air temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit, 25 mile-per-hour winds and 2.5 miles of visibility. The seas were measured at 15 feet with rain throughout the area.
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