Monday, July 19, 1999

Coast Guard finds
3 fishermen, boat

Officials say they appear to be
in good shape and are lucky as
the disabled craft could have
drifted anywhere

By Rod Ohira
and Gordon Pang


The Coast Guard today located a 17-foot overdue fishing boat with three men aboard about 50 nautical miles south of Kauai.

"These guys were very lucky," Ensign Paul Frantz said, adding that it would have been difficult for another vessel within a mile of the boat to have seen it because of its small size.

With the engine disabled and the craft drifting west, Frantz noted the currents could have taken them anywhere.

The Coast Guard was assisted in its search by six Civil Air Patrol aircraft, the Hawaii Air National Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary, Frantz said.

A Coast Guard C-130 spotted the boat at about 7:30 a.m. The cutter Washington was expected to rendezvous with the boat at about noon today.

The men aboard appear to be in good condition, says Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Hagen of the Coast Guard's operation center.

The Coast Guard dropped supplies to the men, who were wearing life jackets.

Frantz reminds boaters that they should have proper emergency equipment aboard before going out.

"If they had filed a float plan and had basic equipment -- a VHF-FM radio -- a lot of this could have been avoided," Frantz said. "We could possibly have solved this in minutes to hours rather than two days."

Petty Officer Eric R. Hedaa says search efforts were hampered by the fact that no communications were established with the boat and the its destination was unknown.

The three men aboard -- identified by the Coast Guard as Kurt J. Schweitzer, 34; Francis N. Stevenson, 30, and Brian Takafuji, 31 --left Hickam marina around 5 a.m. Saturday and told family members to expect them back when it got dark, the Coast Guard says.

Family members reported the boat overdue shortly after midnight Saturday and the Coast Guard yesterday searched south of Oahu and west of Waianae, using a C-130 airplane and HH-65 Dolphin helicopter.

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