The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search at sunset Friday for a 66-year-old fisherman whose unmanned kayak was found Thursday drifting in waters 50 yards offshore of Kawaihae Harbor in South Kohala.
Despite good weather and marine conditions on Friday, land, air and dive searches failed to turn up any sign of the man, identified as Steven Wycoff, the Hawaii Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard said. The two entities along with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement have been searching for the Wycoff since 11 a.m. Thursday.
The Hawaii Fire Department will resume search efforts at first light today.
U.S. Coast Guard Sector Honolulu Lt. Kevin Cooper said the Wycoff is a well-known fisherman in the Kawaihae area.
Wycoff is described as 6 feet tall and weighing 180 pounds, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
He was last seen wearing black shorts and a fishing shirt.
He was apparently fishing from his green kayak off the Kawaihae coast area when he was last seen about 10 a.m. by boaters in the area, according fire department.
His kayak was found unmanned about an hour later 50 yards offshore and about 300 yards north of the mouth of the harbor, according to the Coast Guard.
Cooper said all of Wycoff’s fishing gear was on board when the vessel was located. He added that there was “no indication of any particular scenario” occurring aboard the kayak.
Hawaii Fire Department crews spent Thursday searching the coastline by air and ground while divers scoured the waters, according to the department, which noted it used two Hawaii County helicopters, a rescue boat and 15 personnel.
On Friday, at least 13 personnel, assisted by a helicopter and rescue boat, continued the search above and below water, said West Hawaii Battalion Chief Ty Medeiros.
The U.S. Coast Guard after receiving the report Thursday immediately dispatched an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter.
The Coast Guard Cutter Kittiwake, based in Honolulu, reached Kawaihae about 11 p.m. Thursday.
Both searched throughout the night and Friday, Cooper said.
The Coast Guard is also using Self Locating Datum Marker Buoys and the Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System to coordinate the maritime searches.
The products are designed to use environmental data to provide the most probable drift of a person in the water.
Cooper said the data indicated that currents would have kept the fisherman in the same area, however, the currents began to show a southward drift Friday afternoon.
The Hawaii Fire Department’s standard protocal is to search for three days.
Cooper said the Coast Guard does not have any specified time frame for conducting searches.
Instead, commanders assess the search each afternoon to determine whether or not to suspend the operation.
The Coast Guard is asking mariners in the area of Kawaihae and the northwest side of Hawaii Island to keep an eye out for the man and to report any sightings to the Coast Guard over VHF marine radio channel 16 or contact the Sector Honolulu Command Center at 842-2600.