Coast Guard Suspends Search for Alaska Aircraft

The Guardian Flight twin-engine King Air with three employees on board went missing Jan. 29.

The Coast Guard has suspended the search for an overdue aircraft with three people aboard near Kake, Alaska, as of 5:30 p.m. local time Jan. 31. Debris has been found from the aircraft, a Guardian Flight twin-engine King Air with three Guardian Flight employees -- a pilot, nurse, and paramedic --that went missing on Jan. 29.

The Coast Guard conducted maritime and aerial searches for more than 63 hours concentrated in an area of 240 square nautical miles, with partner agencies and volunteers also searching. The Coast Guard began searching after Sector Juneau command center watchstanders received notification from Sitka Flight Services at 6:40 p.m. Jan. 29 that the Guardian Flight medical aircraft was expected to land in Kake but never arrived. Coast Guard cutters Anacapa and Bailey Barco and MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters from Air Station Sitka and Air Station Kodiak took part in the search.

"Suspending a search for any reason is one of the most difficult decisions we have to make," said Capt. Stephen White, Sector Juneau's commander. "This was an extensive search effort in some very challenging conditions. We are thankful for the assistance from the search and rescue teams, Alaska State Troopers, Army Air National Guard, and good Samaritans."

Guardian Flight initiated a stand-down of its Alaska fleet until further information is available, Randy Lyman, the company's senior vice president of Operations, announced, also reporting that the company will be cooperating fully with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Lyman's Jan. 31 update reported that the employees on board the aircraft were Pilot Patrick Coyle, 63; Flight Nurse Stacie Rae Morse, 30; and Flight Paramedic Margaret Langston, 43, all based in Juneau.

He wrote in his latest update that, "While the formal search and rescue effort has been discontinued and we recognize the gravity of the situation, we will continue efforts to recover our friends in order to hopefully reunite them with their beloved families. Our hearts are heavy, and we respectfully offer our deepest thoughts and prayers to our lost employees and their families. We will miss Pilot Patrick Coyle, Flight Nurse Stacie Rae Morse, and Flight Paramedic Margaret Langston. This tragedy is dreadful for everyone as they were our friends and neighbors. We continue to ask for everyone's prayers and support as we focus on the wellbeing of the surviving families and the entire Guardian Flight team."

The company is a privately owned critical care air ambulance service with its headquarters located in Anchorage.

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