Guam – The search continues this morning [Monday] for a missing 18 year old paddler off Matapang Beach. Guam Fire and Rescue manned a command post throughout the night, and family and friends spent the nighting awaiting the results.
Sunday, a 21 year old woman died after the outrigger canoe she and 5 others were aboard overturned in high surf. They were members of the George Washington High School rowers club. Another man aboard a smaller outrigger canoe went to their rescue but his canoe also overturned in the high surf.
At the Search & Rescue Command Post Sunday night, Guam Fire Department Battalion Chief Roy Dirige told PNC News the acident happened just after 5 pm.
Coast Guard, Guam Fire and Guam Police all joined in the rescue. It is not clear whether any of them were wearing life jackets.
More than 20 people had gathered behind the Command Post by early Sunday evening. Family members of the missing paddler, and of the others involved in the incident, along with their friends, and supporters of the island’s canoeing community had all gathered waiting for word on the outcome of the search.About a dozen were still waiting Monday morning.
U.S. Coast Guard PIO Lt. Junior Grade Wade Thompson told PNC News that 1 HSC 25 helicopter was involved in the search, along with the Cutter Assateague. Captain Dirige said 3 GFD Rescue units are involved in the search along with assistance from Guam GPD.
Chief Dirige said that the man in the smaller outrigger who had made the initial rescue attempt was himself rescued, along with a woman and another man from the larger canoe. All 3 were pulled off the reef by GFD personnel on jet skies after being spotted by the HSC-25 helicopter.
Chief Dirige said the woman was lifeless when she was taken off the reef. GMH Nursing Supervisor Sally Quichocho told PNC News that the 21 year old woman was pronounced Dead On Arrival at the hospital Sunday evening. Another male paddler from the larger canoe was in stable condition at GMH.
The 4 other canoers were all rescued without injury.
At the scene, the President of the Marianas Paddle Sports Racing Association [MPSRA], Jeff Nantino, told PNC News that even though the paddlers on the larger canoe were members of the GW High Rowing Club, not all of them were GW High School students.
Nantino said he had coached the missing 18 year old when he was a student at GW, but the 18 year old had since graduated. He declined to reveal the man’s name.
The 21 year old woman who drowned was also a member of the GW rowing club and she was not a student either.
Nantino declined to say whether the other 4 paddlers on the larger outrigger were students. He also declined to explain what they were doing out there when a High Sruf Advisory was in effect.
“We’re in shock,” Nantino told PNC News. “Our hearts go out to the families,” he said.
The National Weather Service had issued a High Surf Advisory that went into effect Sunday morning at 6am and is scheduled to last through Thursday evening at 6 pm.
The surf “definitely played a big role” in the accident said Chief Dirige. “It was 10 to 12 feet when he got here.”
The larger canoe broke in half and it is remained logged in the reef as of Sunday night. GFD personnel on the scene Monday morning said the canoe had now broken completely apart.