Sonar search has found no trace of two missing men

Local rough seas slow down search

Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2004

An Idaho man using sonar equipment to look for two missing men whose boat capsized Nov. 20 near Horse Island said recent rough seas have made the search difficult.

"Unfortunately we were blown out of the water today," Gene Ralston said Friday.

Ralston said he probably will leave Alaska on Tuesday or Wednesday unless something compelling turns up in the search for James Metlicka of Eagle River and Nick Mayer of Juneau. They were lost while in Metlicka's 26-foot cabin cruiser, the Julie K.

Ralston came to Juneau after the U.S. Coast Guard and Alaska State Troopers discontinued the search about 24 hours after the Julie K was reported capsized.

Unable to go out on the water Friday, he said the side-scanning sonar has revealed a few things on the bottom of the area where the Julie K was thought to have gone down. But nothing obviously linked to the two missing men has turned up.

The torpedo-shaped sonar device has shown a few things of interest, including what was reported in the Empire last week as submerged airplane wreckage. He also has found two sunken boats that no one seems to know anything about.

The airplane, he said, "is pretty badly broken up. There's a wing near a fuselage." About 200 feet away, the sonar has identified an object that may be a motor.

While the wreckage could be a plane that disappeared in the area in December 2000, carrying Steve Zeckser and Edgar "Bear" Burch, divers have not gone down to look for a number on the wreckage, Ralston said.

"It's in 140 feet of water," he said.

Checking out the plane would be the only dive that divers could make in a day, and he has been hoping to find something related to the disappearance of Metlicka and Mayer.

Ralston said the site would be marked with a buoy, as would the site of what appear to be two boats. One is 16 feet long and the other is 60 feet long.

People helping with the search told Ralston they don't know of any such boats missing in the area, and nothing similar appears listed as missing, he said.

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