Responders search for missing fishermen

Authorities launched an extensive search Thursday for two fisherman who apparently were swept off the Ka‘u shoreline Wednesday evening.

“Their vehicles were found and evidence of them on the coastline, fishing, but no sign of them,” said Hawaii Fire Department Battalion Chief Matthias Kusch late Thursday afternoon.

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The U.S. Coast Guard identified the men as 63-year-old James Oyama and 37-year-old Jay Jara.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West, a Coast Guard spokesman, said he didn’t know the relationship between the two men.

“We’ve got a lot of assets out there looking. The shoreline is pretty tough out there. It’s just Hilo side of Whittington Beach Park,” Kusch said.

The men reportedly went fishing at 5 p.m. in street clothes Wednesday, and were expected back before midnight.

Hawaii County dispatch relayed information to the Coast Guard at 7 a.m. Thursday, reporting the two fishermen were overdue after receiving a report from a family member at 5:46 a.m.

According to Kusch, Wednesday “was a dead calm, beautiful day” along that shoreline, which he described as low cliffs.

“And some time in the night, the surf kicked up pretty big,” he said. “They sent me some photographs of the wave action. Their fishing gear was found in an inundation zone.”

Authorities said Hawaii Fire Department and Hawaii Police Department personnel and others conducted a ground search of the area. An air search was being conducted by a county helicopter, two Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopters, a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane, and a military Black Hawk helicopter.

“In addition, the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Gerczak is being deployed from Honolulu to help,” West said.

“We are working cooperatively with Hawaii County to search the area,” said Charles Turner, command duty officer with Coast Guard Sector Honolulu. “Anyone with information about the Oyamas that may assist us with the search is asked to call the command center at 808-842-2600.”

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The search is expected to continue today.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaii tribune-herald.com.

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