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The Japan Coast Guard has called off a targeted search for a U.S. airman who went missing while surfing, but continues looking during routine daily patrols by sea and air, a spokesman said Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.
The Japan Coast Guard has called off a targeted search for a U.S. airman who went missing while surfing, but continues looking during routine daily patrols by sea and air, a spokesman said Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Japan Coast Guard)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The search for a missing U.S. airman last seen surfing near Cape Hedo on Sunday was downgraded this week by the Japan Coast Guard.

The 21-year-old, assigned to Kadena Air Base, was last seen drifting out to sea off Adan Beach in the Kunigami district shortly before 9:10 a.m. Sunday, a spokesman with the coast guard’s Nakagusuku Office said Monday. The missing airman’s surfboard washed ashore nearby not long after he was last seen.

The coast guard called off the targeted search as early as Monday, the spokesman said, but continues looking for the airman during routine daily patrols by sea and air.

The 18th Wing at Kadena did not respond Friday to requests seeking comment, but on Wednesday said the search continues. The Air Force has not yet confirmed the missing airman’s identity.

The airman’s surfing companion realized his partner was no longer with him after coming ashore, the coast guard spokesman said Monday. He spotted the airman clinging to his board about 300 yards offshore and drifting away.

The companion surmised the missing airman may have been exhausted and unable to swim to shore, the spokesman said. The airman wasn't wearing a flotation device at the time, according to the spokesman.

Japan Coast Guard headquarters in Naha immediately dispatched boats to the area but coming darkness suspended their search, the spokesman said Monday.

Airmen from the 31st and 33rd rescue squadrons searched through the night and into early Monday, according to a wing statement Monday.

The Japan Coast Guard resumed the search Monday morning with a 100-foot boat, two smaller craft and an MH-915 helicopter from Naha Air Base.

Government spokespeople in Japan typically speak to the media on condition of anonymity as a condition of their employment.burke.matt@stripes.com Twitter: @MatthewMBurke1kusumoto.hana@stripes.com Twitter: @HanaKusumoto

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