Search called off for men lost near Horse Island

Rescue team finds capsized skiff, personal belongings and drowned dogs west of Juneau

Posted: Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Coast Guard announced Monday it had suspended its search Sunday afternoon for two 30-year-old men missing since their 26-foot cabin cruiser was reported capsized at 4 p.m. Saturday near Horse Island, 12 miles west of Juneau.

James Mitlika of Eagle River owns the Julie K, and Nick Mayer of Hoonah was a passenger.

The search was called off Sunday afternoon. The cancelation was announced a day later after family members were notified.

"We suspended our search efforts due to a negligible chance of survival coinciding with the weather and the water temperature," said Petty Officer James Childress of the Coast Guard Command Center. "That's pending further developments. That doesn't mean the case is closed."

A fellow boater reported the Julie K overturned at 4:06 p.m. Saturday. At the time, there were 15 to 20 knot southeast winds, one to two miles of visibility, two-foot seas and a ceiling of 500 feet.

"Fifteen to 20 knots is substantial if you're in a little boat," Childress said.

At 7:46 p.m. Saturday, the Command Center's 47-foot Station Juneau boat found debris from the Julie K, with the help of a Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter crew from Sitka. The crew was using night-vision goggles. The boat was found 150 to 220 yards off a beach on Horse Island 35 minutes later, Childress said.

Personal items, including a float coat, a mustang suit and several flotation devices, were collected from the craft. Searchers also found two drowned dogs in the boat's cabin, but there were no distress signals from Mitlika or Mayer, according to a Coast Guard release.

The Coast Guard searched the area Sunday with two helicopters and a boat. Alaska State Troopers also launched a vessel and transported search dogs to Horse and Colt islands.

Two SEADOGS teams and four Good Samaritan vessel crews, including a skiff piloted by the person who reported the capsized Julie K, helped in the search Sunday.

Several residents on Horse Island and nearby islands also participated.

"Search conditions were excellent," Childress said. "The wind did die down to a variable six miles per hour. Visibility opened to 10 miles. The sky was still overcast."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at

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