HONOLULU – The Coast Guard continues the search for a snorkeler who went missing near Molokini Crater Tuesday evening.
The 56-year-old man, Paul Blackburn from Illinois, was snorkeling near Molokini Crater with his son when he went missing. He was last seen at approximately 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday wearing a white rash guard and board shorts. He was not wearing a lifejacket.
Coast Guard Cutter Ahi and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Barbers Point are scheduled to search throughout the night. Wednesday’s search also included a 45-foot Response Boat Medium crew from Coast Guard Station Maui, the Maui County Fire Air 1 helicopter and fireboat as well as personnel from Ocean Safety and Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission.
Coast Guard watchstanders in the Sector Honolulu Command Center were initially notified of the situation at approximately 5:51 p.m., Tuesday, by the sailing vessel Gauguin.
A 45-foot Response Boat Medium crew from Coast Guard Station Maui was diverted from a training mission to begin the search. A Dolphin helicopter crew assisted in the search until sunset Tuesday. The Coast Guard Cutter Ahi joined the search Tuesday night.
The Coast Guard is asking mariners in the area of the Molokini Crater to keep a sharp eye out for the man and to report any sightings to the Coast Guard over VHF marine radio channel 16 or to contact the Sector Honolulu Command Center at (808) 842-2600.
HONOLULU (AP) — A Coast Guard rescue swimmer whose disappearance led to a massive search in Hawaii pleaded guilty to desertion Tuesday, saying he left work one day, decided never to return and spent the next three months camping in the mountains. A military judge sentenced him to more than six months confinement and a bad conduct discharge.
During a special court-martial in Honolulu, Petty Officer 1st Class Russell Matthews pleaded guilty to desertion and wrongful use of marijuana. In exchange for his guilty plea, the Coast Guard dismissed charges of being absent without leave and causing the Coast Guard to conduct a search when there was no need.
Matthews’ sentence also includes forfeiture of $2,000 of pay per month for a year, which he can opt to have sent to his two children. He’ll also be downgraded to the third-lowest rank. The Coast Guard says the six months’ confinement is on top of the 119 days he’s already served at a Navy brig.
He wanted to leave the Coast Guard to bury the pain of losing crewmembers in a 2008 helicopter crash, he said. He was supposed to be with that crew but was hospitalized with appendicitis at the time of the crash. Adding to the pain was a bicycle accident, where his first wife was pulling their two sons on a trailer. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and later committed suicide. He deserted near the one-year anniversary of her suicide.
“Your honor, I left work and I didn’t have any intention of going back,” he testified, describing how he went to pick up his children from school on Oct. 9 and then got into an argument with his wife. He then drove to Kaena Point, a remote part of Oahu, and walked on the beach for several hours. Afterward, he camped in the mountains behind his kids’ school, he said, where he stayed until he showed up at his wife’s home in mid-January.
“That’s a long time to be camping,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Kevin Bruen, the judge presiding over the court-martial. “How did you sustain yourself?”
“I had $20 in my pocket,” Matthews said softly. “I did some… stuff I try not to remember.”
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard launched a massive search. Members of the Coast Guard who participated in the search that scoured more than 10,000 square miles testified about the motivation to find one of their own, the speculation he may have tried to kill himself and then the mixed emotions that came when he turned up alive.
Pilots flew 64 hours searching over the waters off Kaena Point, taking Coast Guard members away from their normal duties and taxing aircraft. “He’s part of our unit…we are family,” said Cmdr. Prince Neal. Rescuers mourned his loss, only to find out he was alive. They felt happiness for his children, but also confusion, Neal recalled.
Matthews didn’t discuss more about his time in the wilderness, only saying he simply went back to where he lived and realized his wife and children had moved. The memories of what happened next are sketchy, he said, recalling that paramedics were called because he had a cut on his head and he ended up in police custody.
“It was not my intention to turn my back on my unit or the Coast Guard,” Matthews said. “I cannot change the past but I vow to make things right in the future.”
Lt. Kelly Vandenberg, a Coast Guard attorney prosecuting the case, said by “hanging out in the woods,” the people who suffered the most are his children.
One of Matthews’ defense attorneys, Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Deerwester, said Matthews loved the Coast Guard and didn’t act in spite. Finding a campsite overlooking his children’s school was his way of not abandoning them, Deerwester said. He also said Matthews smoked marijuana to “self-medicate.”
Coast Guard attorneys said his two sons are in the custody of his first wife’s family on the mainland.
Before being led away, Matthews kissed his wife, who sat alone, dressed in black, in the back of the courtroom. She declined to comment and left the federal courthouse in tears.
HONOLULU — The Coast Guard continues the search Thursday for a man last seen Monday night at the north end of Waipio Valley Beach on the Big Island Wednesday.
Coast Guard watchstanders in the Sector Honolulu Command Center were notified of the situation at approximately 4:15 p.m., Tuesday, by the Hawaii County fire department. The report stated that a man had gone swimming off the northeast coast of the Big Island and had not been seen since Monday night.
The Coast Guard and Hawaii County Fire Department are currently searching with air, shore and sea assets for the 62-year-old male, John Spillane. Anyone with any information on the whereabouts of Spillane are requested to contact the Sector Honolulu Command Center at (808) 842-2600.
HONOLULU — Coast Guard, Kauai County Fire Department, Ocean Safety and Kauai Police Department crews began searching for a person in the water near Kalihiwai Bay, on Kauai, Monday.
Coast Guard watchstanders in the Sector Honolulu command center were notified at 12 p.m. Monday by the fire department. According to the report, two men were swept off the rocks on Kauai’s north shore after a large wave struck at approximately 11:30 a.m. One of the men was able to swim back onto the rocks.
The person in the water is a 62-year-old tourist. He was reported to be wearing blue jeans and a white T-shirt.
Coast Guard assets involved in the search include an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Barbers Point and a 47-foot Motor Life Boat crew from Station Kauai. The Dolphin and the Motor Life Boat arrived on scene at 1:15 p.m. yesterday and searched the waters from Kalihiwai Bay out to 8 miles off the shoreline. Coast Guard rescue crews have covered approximately 54 square miles in their search.
The 87-foot Coast Guard Cutter Kittiwake arrived Monday evening and searched throughout the night. Search crews resumed searching this morning with an HC-130 Hercules airplane, a Dolphin and a Motor Life Boat.
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