Lost at sea

So yesterday I added a case of six commercial fishermen who disappeared off the coast of Alaska when the fishing vessel Destination sank in 2017 with the loss of all hands on board. I think this was the largest “lost at sea” group of disappearances, and possibly the largest group of “lost/injured missing” people I’ve put up: Kai Jamal Hamik, Jeffrey Hathaway, Charles “Glenn” Jones, Lawrence Vincent “Larry” O’Grady, Darrik Monroe Seibold and Raymond Jay Vincler.

I also added Eric Lawrence Eder, an Alaska fisherman who fell off a fishing trawler off the coast of Alaska, and Angela Chingliak, whose body was never found after her boat sank in Goodnews Bay off the coast of Alaska.

I’m sure you’re sensing a pattern here. I got all those names off this list of missing persons in Alaska, which has 1,231 entries as of this writing. It’s just names and dates of disappearance, nothing else. The list of active missing persons bulletins, which has fliers with photos and the standard info, is much shorter. It has I think 117 people, unless I lost count.

Alaska DOES have a pretty high crime rate, but a lot of the missing persons on its list are only “missing” in a technical sense: their fates are known, and in many instances so are their approximate whereabouts. They’re just on the lists in case their bodies turn up and need to be identified.

I’m not sure how far I’m willing to go with groups of lost/injured missing people. I mean, six is one thing, but I know there’s one ship that sunk in the Bering Sea and with like 45 people on board, almost all of whom perished, and they never found the bodies. I wouldn’t want to put up THAT group, and those 40-some people may very well be on that list of Alaska missings.

I guess it’s just a judgment call.

Native American Heritage Month: David George

In honor of Native American Heritage Month I’m featuring a Native American missing person for every day in the month of November. Today’s missing person is David Post George, age 21. I don’t have any tribal info for him.

He was last seen in Juneau, Alaska on March 7, 2005, but for some reason he wasn’t reported missing till 2007. I have no other information.

Native American Heritage Month: Marion Gonangnan

In honor of Native American Heritage Month I’m featuring a Native American missing person for every day in the month of November. Today’s missing person is Marion Gonangnan, a 32-year-old woman who disappeared from Anchorage in 2003. I don’t have tribal info for her. The site Justice For Native Women says she had spent a lot of her life in the lower 48 states, was unhappy in Alaska and wanted to return to California, where she’d spent her younger years.

Marion may have been suffering from an ectopic pregnancy at the time of her disappearance. Basically, that happens when the fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube rather than the uterus. The only treatment is to terminate the pregnancy; if left untreated, this is a life-threatening condition.

That alone would make her disappearance concerning, but Marion’s lifestyle indicates foul play could have been involved in her case. She had a history of drug abuse, sex work and “residential instability”, and a violent relationship with her boyfriend. (He was in jail when she went missing, though, so he isn’t a suspect.)

It seems likely that Marion is deceased. If still alive, she would be 48 today.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Valeriano Flores-Mata

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month I’m featuring a Hispanic missing person every day from September 15 to October 15. Today’s case is Valeriano Flores-Mata, who was last seen on July 24, 2004, when he was 32 years old.

His disappearance appears to be either an accident or foul play. He was last seen either on or near the fishing vessel Deep Pacific as it was preparing to leave port at St. Paul, Alaska. It wasn’t until several hours later that anyone realized he was missing, by which time the ship was out to sea.

These circumstances would indicate an accident, but it says he’s missing under “suspicious circumstances” which leads me to believe there’s more to the story than this.

If still alive, which seems unlikely Flores-Mata would now be 47 years old.

Five (sorta) missing people in the wreckage of a crashed plane

So, if a plane crashes and they find the crash site but are unable to recover the bodies for whatever reason, I don’t usually consider those people to be missing, even by my quite generous definition. After all, their fate and the location of their remains is known.

But today, I added five people whose case fit those parameters: plane crash, wreckage found. I decided I could just about wedge the case within the Charley Project’s case requirements because, after the crash site was initially located, it vanished again. It moved.

I doubt that happens all that often, but this was in Alaska, the Land That Eats People.

A small plane carrying four Polish tourists and their pilot was on an aerial tour of Denali National Park when it hit the side of the mountain. This was at 11,000-foot elevation, on an unstable field of ice and snow. When park rangers found the site a few days later, the plane was embedded in snow right on the side of a cliff, as you can see in the photo accompanying this article. The fact that it’s gone now is not terribly surprising: shifting/melting ice and snow, wind, etc.

So anyway, the victims are now up on my site: the pilot, Craig Layson, from Michigan, and the four passengers: Janusz Intek, Maria Libacka, Kazimierz Miernik and Robert Sieniawski, all of them Poles. Rest In Peace. The mountain is their grave.

Wanted to refer everyone to this article

Charley Project Facebook user Michelle S. found this article about the 1987 disappearance of Ronald Oquilluk (who was not on Charley) and how he was identified over thirty years after he went missing. It’s a very good article and there’s a bit at the bottom about the recent identification of missing hunter Patrick Chambers.

Oquilluk’s case reminds me of the 2016 disappearance of Walter Hawk, another Native Alaskan man with special needs who wandered into the wilderness and never came back. What’s particularly frustrating in Hawk’s case is that searchers actually saw him in the days after he went missing, just hoofing it across the tundra, but apparently they weren’t able to get his attention. So close, yet so far.

I’ll say it again: Alaska eats people.

Oquilluk’s remains were found a full 450 miles from where he was last seen, and I wonder whether Hawk wandered as far as that. He disappeared during the summertime, and if he knew how to live off the land he might have been able to survive for an extended time period.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Ai Adams

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is Ai Adams, a 38-year-old Japanese-American woman who disappeared from Beaver, Alaska on May 20, 2017.

Her fate is known: she, her husband Clifford, and another person were on the Yukon River when their boat capsized. Ai and Clifford never made it to shore, but their friend was wearing a life jacket and she survived. Clifford’s body didn’t turn up for a month. Ai’s was never found.

I actually have a friend who has a friend who knew the Adamses. In addition, Ai was photographed and quoted for this New York Times article which came out just months before her death. She sounds like a very brave person, to have taken the enormous leap from the megalopolis of Tokyo to living off the land in northern Alaska.

“Life is just once,” she told the New York Times reporter.