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Coast Guard searches for missing plane

Fog complicates search for Brian and Brandon Andrews of Juneau

Posted: Monday, August 11, 2008

Two men missing since Saturday apparently made it back to their cabin on Admiralty Island before attempting to return to Juneau in their floatplane.

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Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

Members of the Juneau Mountain Rescue team hiked to the cabin at Young Lake Sunday, discovering that gear the men used on a camping trip had been removed from the cabin.

Brian Andrews, 56, and his son, Brandon, 24, were reported missing by family members when their plane did not arrive back in Juneau from Young Lake on Saturday. Their flight to the cabin about 20 miles southwest of the city was expected to last no longer than 40 minutes.

Brian Andrews is the deputy commissioner for the Alaska Department of Revenue. He and his son dropped off a family member and camping gear in Juneau at about 3:45 p.m. Saturday before heading back to the cabin to pick up more gear, according to the Coast Guard.

When the plane did not return after two hours, the family reported it overdue to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The search party, consisting of four members of the search and rescue team, was transported to Admiralty Cove on Sunday by Alaska State Troopers.

"They're hiking up to the valley, where people can't get eyes on the ground from the air due to weather and forest cover," member Bruce Bowler said.

The team arrived at the cabin and found that the gear had been picked up, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Levi Read said late Sunday.

Weather hampered the search effort over the weekend.

"Searching conditions are not great because of fog," Read said Sunday afternoon. "We have really dense, patchy fog, especially right above the main search area."

Two Coast Guard helicopters were grounded Saturday night and Sunday morning because they couldn't get low enough to search.

A rescue helicopter from Air Station Sitka searched for about one hour Saturday night and another hour Sunday morning before fog disrupted the search.

The Coast Guard cutter Liberty started searching at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Areas searched included Stephens Passage, Young Bay, Hawk Inlet, Oliver Inlet, Seymour Canal and King Salmon Bay. Five hundred square miles were covered, Read said.

The Civil Air Patrol used two aircraft to assist in the search, looking near Admiralty Island and in Stephens Passage, Read said.

The men were last seen wearing hip waders and inflatable life jackets. They are both 6 feet tall with blonde hair. The floatplane is a Cessna-182 and is white with red and silver trim. The tail number is N935OX.

If the weather improves, Air Station Sitka would launch the Coast Guard helicopter today to continue to search for any sign of the men or the plane, Read said.

• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or e-mail kim.marquis@juneauempire.com.



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