SEWARD — Two men were rescued from Resurrection Bay after their vessel flipped Friday night about a quarter mile offshore at Fourth of July Beach. A third man who was with them was lost, and is presumed drowned following a lengthy search Friday night and Saturday morning.

Missing is Brian Coward, 55, of Wasilla, and rescued were David Ballard, 49, of Seward and Brian Peterson, 42, of Wasilla, according to Seward Police Lt. Louis Tiner.

The three men were on a camping trip aboard Peterson’s new 16-foot tri-hulled fiberglass craft, Tiner told The LOG.

Seward Police Dispatch received a 911 call at 8 p.m. Friday from harbor employee Matt Chase, who was on the beach with his son when they heard people yelling in distress just off the beach. Seward Volunteer Fire Department’s vessel John Foster was launched from Z-float, and a volunteer fire crew also responded to the call, to be the eyes and ears from the shore.

The U.S. Coast Guard was notified that a vessel had flipped over, and that three people were overboard. They sent out a H60 Jayhawk helicopter with a rescue swimmer, which arrived almost two hours later, either from Sitka or Kodiak, said Seward Fire Chief Dave Squires. The USCG Cutter Mustang also sent out an inflatable raft, the Mustang One, with two people aboard.

Good Samaritan vessels Maverick and Orion also responded to the marine radio call for help. The Maverick and John Foster crews were each able to pull one person from the water and bring them safely to shore where they received medical care by Seward Volunteer Ambulance Corps while simultaneous search efforts continued for the third man.

The overturned vessel was vertical in the water, surrounded by debris that had tipped out such as their food and camping gear. The fire department searched Friday until a cloudbank rolled in and it was too dark to search any more. It returned to the harbor around 10 p.m. The Coast Guard kept searching, and returned again Saturday morning, until finally suspending the search at a little after 9 a.m., Saturday.

The men told their rescuers that a wave came over the bow, turned them sideways, and flipped the vessel over, said Squires. They said they last saw their companion clinging to a cooler. Only one of them was wearing a personal flotation device, and he was one of the survivors.

Unfortunately, this type of incident is not a rare unusual occurrence in Resurrection Bay, Squires said. There have been quite a few drownings during the many years that he has served the city, including the drownings of two city electric department employees under similar circumstances during the late ’80s or early ’90s.

The fire department trains in the bay for such rescues, and it’s often surprisingly difficult to find people in the water, said Squires. During their training exercises the rescue crew can be only 100 feet away from a practice victim in the water in a dry suit, or wearing a flotation device, and they can’t even see him, he said.

The Coast Guard has done a great deal to stress to the public the importance of wearing personal flotation devices, or PFDs, Squires said, but not everyone pays attention. This unfortunate incident further underscores the importance of doing so.

“People need to wear them. Anyone who says I can swim... They’re just foolish people,” Squires said. “Give yourself an edge.”

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