Update: Search suspended for 2 men who remain unaccounted for in Gastineau Channel

Update | 8:11 p.m.

A Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew searches Gastineau Channel in Juneau on Dec. 6, 2017. Two men remain unaccounted for after their skiff capsized the night before.

A Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew searches Gastineau Channel in Juneau on Dec. 6, 2017. Two men remain unaccounted for after their skiff capsized the night before. (Public domain photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios/U.S. Coast Guard)

Search and rescue teams are headed home with two men, who were last seen in Gastineau Channel on Tuesday night, still unaccounted for.

The search for James Cole, 50, and Sheridan “Scott” Stringer, 48, was suspended at about 6 p.m. They went missing after a skiff they were in capsized.

Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Collin McClelland was the officer in charge of the search-and-rescue command center watch floor most of day.

“Unfortunately, even though you throw tons of assets at a situation, sometimes, it doesn’t always go with a happy ending,” McClelland said. “It’s never a happy thing to think about, however, it doesn’t keep us from trying any harder next time.”

Juneau Docks and Harbors, Alaska State Troopers, SEADOGS, Alaska Wildlife Troopers and the Juneau Police Department also participated in the search effort.

McClelland said they covered about 64 nautical square miles centered around Gastineau Channel and the Mendenhall Wetlands and logged 400 to 500 miles of linear travel.

McClelland said he doesn’t make presumptions of death, but did note that the missing men’s next of kin had been notified.

— Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO

Updated | 3:55 p.m. – Overturned skiff had been heading to tug boat anchored in Gastineau Channel

The Coast Guard searches Gastineau Channel on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, for two men who went missing after a boat capsized the night before near Aurora Harbor. (Photo by Tripp J Crouse/KTOO)

The Coast Guard searches Gastineau Channel on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, for two men who went missing after a boat capsized the night before near Aurora Harbor. (Photo by Tripp J Crouse/KTOO)

Authorities have identified two men reported missing after a skiff overturned in Juneau’s Gastineau Channel.

The Coast Guard says that James Cole, 50, and Sheridan “Scott” Stringer, 48, were last seen Tuesday night.

“There’s a chance they may have made it back to shore, potentially, and just fallen out of the public eye,” Coast Guard Lt. Nicholas Capuzzi said. “We’re encouraging any members of the public, who may have had interactions with either of these gentlemen.”

The Coast Guard said the skiff loaded with five people — two women and three men — and a dog was headed to the Lumberman, a 107-foot tug anchored near Aurora Harbor.

The Lumberman, which is anchored in navigable waters outside the port’s jurisdiction, has acted as a liveaboard for years, Juneau’s Harbormaster David Borg said.

“There might be several people living out there on the boat – but I’m not certain,” Borg said. “They aren’t required to register with us and they don’t pay to be moored or anchored out there, either. There’s no requirement for them to report that to us.”

It’s unclear whether anyone on the overturned skiff lived on the Lumberman.

One of the missing men, Cole, was among the tenants displaced after the historic Bergmann Hotel was condemned by the city earlier this year.

City Housing Officer Scott Ciambor said liveaboards have long filled a niche in Juneau’s tight housing market.

“People frequently use them by choice or due to economic conditions,” Ciambor  said. “It’s not surprising that a lot of people are living on boats here in Juneau.”

Harbor officials are working to address issues of liveaboards anchored long-term in the channel.

Borg said the issue has been apparent since the Challenger, a historic wooden tug sank in 2015 and had to be salvaged at great expense.

“After the Challenger sank and the huge sum of money it cost to raise that,” Borg said. “We are starting to look at the regulations to address vessels anchoring and/or mooring long-term in our tideland areas and we will be addressing that over our next harbor operations meeting next week.”

The skiff reportedly overturned in rough weather about 9 p.m. Tuesday. Two of the women were able to swim to shore. One of them got in a second boat and tried to rescue their companions.

A Coast Guard life boat was able to find one of the three men.

“The two other males are still unaccounted for,” Juneau Police Sgt. Shawn Phelps said.

The three were treated and released at Bartlett Regional Hospital. The dog is being cared for by animal control.

The Coast Guard spent much of Wednesday searching from boats and a helicopter up and down Gastineau Channel.

— Jacob Resneck, KTOO

Editors’ Note: Scott Ciambor is married to a CoastAlaska employee.

Updated  | 12:05 p.m. Wednesday

Search underway in Gastineau Channel for two missing men

The Coast Guard has identified the two missing men as James Cole, 50, and Sheridan “Scott” Stringer, 48.

“We’re putting that out there because there’s a chance they may have made it back to shore, potentially, and just have fallen out of the public eye,” Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Nicholas Capuzzi said.

“We’re encouraging any members of the public who may have had interactions with either of these gentlemen since 9 p.m. last night to contact the Coast Guard at (907) 463-2980.”

Matt Miller, KTOO

Original story | 6:26 a.m. Wednesday

Two men are still missing after a skiff took on water and capsized about 9 p.m. Tuesday in Gastineau Channel.

A total of five people, two women and three men, were in the skiff heading out to a tug anchored up near Aurora Harbor, said Coast Guard Sector Juneau Petty Officer Colin Fitzgerald.

Two women that were in the skiff swam to the dock and got in another boat to rescue three men in the water, Juneau Police Sgt. Shawn Phelps said.

One man climbed onto the capsized boat and was picked up by a Coast Guard boat, taken to shore, and treated by Coast Guard medical staff.

“The two females that were in the secondary boat made it to the shore and walked to medical treatment with CCF/R (Capital City Fire/Rescue),” Phelps said.

The rescued man and two women were treated for mild hypothermia at Bartlett Regional Hospital, and were reported in good condition.

A dog that was also in the boat was rescued and is now being cared for by Animal Control.

“The two other males are still unaccounted for,” Phelps said.

Two small rescue boats and an H-60 helicopter still are searching Gastineau Channel today from south of the Douglas Bridge up to the flats area of the Mendenhall wetlands, Fitzgerald said.

Identities of the five people have not been released yet.

(This story will be updated as more details become available.)

Matt Miller, KTOO

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