Marine still missing after Onna snorkeling incident
November 14, 2008
ONNA, Okinawa — A 29-year-old Marine remained missing and is feared dead Wednesday as a result of a weekend snorkeling incident.
Japanese officials said no trace has been found of the Marine, who apparently was swept out to sea by strong waves Sunday off Maeda Point, a popular diving and snorkeling area in Onna Village on Okinawa’s western coast.
Marine officials would not release the Marine’s name or unit affiliation, citing "privacy considerations."
The search began about 2 p.m. Sunday when a 20-year-old Marine who also experienced difficulties with high waves and increasingly bad weather managed to struggle to shore, reporting he had lost contact with his friend.
The two were snorkeling about 300 feet offshore when they were overcome, said a spokesman for the Japan Coast Guard on Wednesday.
Area authorities, including Okinawa police, the Kin Fire Department, the Japan Coast Guard and military police and firefighters participated in the initial search Sunday, but only a lone swim fin belonging to the younger Marine was found at a nearby fishing port before the search was called off due to darkness.
The search resumed Monday morning with Marine Corps Bases Japan and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing officials working with Japanese authorities, who have the lead in the search, said 1st Lt. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, Marine media relations officer.
On Wednesday, Okinawa police continued to search from the sea and shore while the Japan Coast Guard reduced their search activities.
"However, we will continue the search during our routine patrol activities," said Takamichi Higa, spokesman for the Japan Coast Guard in Naha.
In the past eight years, 19 servicemembers have drowned in Okinawa waters, according to Marine statistics. Last year 12 people, including civilians and a 34-year-old Marine, drowned. Four people have died while swimming or diving in Onna so far this year.