Navy, Coast Guard on Guam resume search for surfer
August 27, 2004
U.S. Navy and Coast Guard rescue personnel on Guam resumed their search for a missing surfer Wednesday evening a day after plucking three others from waters stirred up by Typhoon Chaba, which skirted the island over the weekend.
The crews, assisted by the Guam Fire Department, conducted a four-hour search early Wednesday for the missing man, combing a section of the coastline extending five miles out from Haputo Bay south to Agat, said Navy Lt. Arwen Consaul, a Commander, Naval Forces Marianas spokeswoman.
“The Coast Guard said the body may have been submerged under the water,” she added. “So they planned to try again later to see if it surfaces.”
Three local men and another civilian from Texas were watching the waves Tuesday afternoon off Tamuning when one of them was swept out into the ocean, Consaul said. The others jumped in and attempted to save the man.
At about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, with waves up to 20 feet pounding the cliff line, two surfers were rescued by the Coast Guard, while a third was picked up by an MH-60 Knighthawk crew from Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 5, a Navy unit assigned to Andersen Air Force Base.
The pilots said the surfers “were having a rough time in the seas,” Consaul said. “They were getting banged up a lot. They couldn’t put one of them in a harness because his back was all scraped up.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Von Borstel, a corpsman, tended to that third victim, who had to be hoisted into the helicopter by a net.
“He had abrasions all over his body, back, head and knees. Everywhere,” Borstel said.
A second helicopter crew spent another two hours Tuesday looking for the fourth individual.
Two victims were treated and released from Guam Memorial Hospital, Consaul said. Another remained there in serious condition Wednesday night.
Surf advisories had been issued, she said, warning people to stay out of the water as the storm brushed the island, but some still chose to venture out.
“It was really bad out there,” Consaul added. “It’s low tide all the time, and now, we get these Hawaii-type waves coming in. People want to go out there and surf and jet ski and kite surf, because these weather conditions are not normal.
“There’s such a strong rip current, and there’s hardly ever one here. People don’t realize how quickly it will pull you out. When these storms come in, the water is very deep, the waves get very tall and a strong rip current comes through. It takes some people by surprise.”
The surfer rescues followed a Monday morning rescue when a Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 5 crew battled 30-foot seas and a mile of visibility to rescue six people stranded in a 40-foot tugboat partially submerged off Saipan’s coast, Consaul said.