Search for tourist cost $63K

Cost of Coast Guard boat, Jayhawk helicopter add up

Posted: Tuesday, September 26, 2000

The miffed cruise ship passenger who decided to fly home to Michigan because she felt like a fashion victim cost the government a pretty penny in search costs.

The U.S. Coast Guard expended $63,541.20 retracing the path of the cruise ship Dawn Princess after Sherry Caminita, 73, left the ship in Juneau in a huff carrying only her purse. She did not notify her traveling companions, two couples, or ship officials when she decided to end her cruise.

It was discovered her bed had not been slept in while the ship was approaching Ketchikan. Cruise ship officials assumed she might have fallen overboard. A 225-mile stretch of water between Juneau and Ketchikan was searched, retracing the ship's path, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Roger Wetherell.

The cost included 7.3 hours' use of a 47-foot Coast Guard boat at $10,884.30; 2.2 hours' use of a second 47-foot boat at $3,280.20; 5.8 hours' use of a Jayhawk helicopter at $45,559; several hours' use of a watch stander who made urgent radio broadcasts, $420; and 6.1 hours' use of a 25-foot boat, $3,397.70, Wetherell said.

"Of course, we can't calculate the cost for 4.0 hours of Alaska State Troopers' time," he added.

Ketchikan Trooper Twyla Beck was assigned to the search effort after the Coast Guard received a call from the captain of the ship owned by Princess Cruises early Saturday, alerting authorities Caminita had last been seen at 10 a.m. Friday. Her belongings were still in her room Saturday, said Greg Wilkinson, trooper spokesman.

"At 5:28 p.m. Saturday, we located her at her home in (St. Clair Shores) Michigan," Wilkinson said.

Caminita said she had clashed with a longtime friend over what was suitable to wear to dinner. Her friend did not agree with her choice of a black velvet skirt and top.

"We are glad Caminita is safe," Wetherell said. "It's so much better knowing she is safe, although it cost a little money to find that out. We are glad we did not have to retrieve a victim."

The Coast Guard has not decided whether to try to collect search costs from Caminita, Wetherell said.

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