Searchers found kayaks, but men remain missing off SoCal coast

Published 4:17 pm Friday, October 19, 2007

Coast Guard and Navy rescuers on Thursday found the kayaks used by two Navy Seabees last seen kayaking off San Nicolas Island, but the men remained missing.

The kayaks were found around 6 p.m., tied together and floating about 35 miles southeast of the island, Coast Guard Lt. Andrew Munoz said.

Rescuers will continue searching, Munoz said, declining to speculate on whether the men were alive.

“The fact that we did find the kayaks provide us another point in the search,” he said “We recalculated our search patterns and we’re moving in a new direction and hopefully in the direction of the two missing kayakers.”

Christopher Victor and Justin Johnson were reported missing Wednesday by two friends who went kayaking with them around the island, said Teri Reid, a spokeswoman for Naval Base Ventura County.

Their disappearance prompted a search by rescue crews, who used infrared cameras to try to spot them through the night amid 35 mph winds and 6-foot waves. The search expanded Thursday to a 2,000-square-mile area.

The men, both from Gulfport, Miss., had been stationed at San Nicolas Island for two weeks. They were scheduled to be there until the middle of December to work on a construction project, Reid said.

San Nicolas is a Navy-owned island about 75 miles west of Los Angeles.