UPDATE: Coast Guard suspends search for missing Sitka kayaker

A Coast Guard crew heads into the Eastern Channel on Jan. 6, 2020.(Katherine Rose/KCAW)

Update, Jan. 7:

The Coast Guard suspended its search Monday for a Sitka man whose empty kayak was discovered overturned the day before in Sitka’s Eastern Channel. 

Kale Pastel was reported missing Sunday less than six hours after he’d left the UAS-Sitka campus for a pre-dawn four-mile trip to Birdsnest Bay, near Camp Coogan Bay. Searchers spent two days scouring more than 111 square miles looking for the 36-year-old paddler. The Coast Guard says Pastel’s overturned kayak was discovered by a Good Samaritan vessel that towed it to Cannon Island, about two miles from his starting point.

The 45-hour air and water search was aided by Sitka Mountain Rescue and U.S. Forest Service rangers. 

Original story:

An intensive air and water search is underway in Sitka for a missing kayaker.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Sitka Mountain Rescue have been combing the shoreline and islands of Sitka Sound looking for 36-year-old Kale Pastel, who was reported missing on Sunday morning.

Pastel departed in his kayak from the UAS-Sitka campus area at 4:30 a.m., headed to Birdsnest Bay, near Camp Coogan Bay. He was reported overdue shortly after 10 a.m.

Pastel’s kayak was spotted by a Coast Guard crew at 1:15 p.m. on Cannon Island. A good Samaritan had located the kayak earlier that morning overturned and adrift in Eastern Channel, and towed it to shore.

Eric Matthes is the deputy captain and technical team leader with Sitka Mountain Rescue. He says the team searched by boat and helicopter throughout Sunday afternoon, but had to scale back the efforts when the sun set.

“The focus for our searching is really only effective for daylight hours for this particular kind of search,” he said. “The Coast Guard searched after a while after dark yesterday. The field operations for our end were suspended overnight.”

Matthes says they made plans for daybreak today, with somewhere between 20 and 40 volunteers aiding in the search. The Coast Guard Cutter Bailey Barco arrived from Ketchikan this morning, and Sitka Coast Guard crews continue to search by helicopter and boat.

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