A diver, who was the subject of a Coast Guard search off Molokai due to the discovery of an orange dive flag and buoy in the ocean Wednesday, was found on land and was never in distress.
The tug, American Contender, reported finding an orange dive flag and buoy with a taut line about 5 miles offshore of the Molokai Airport. The tug monitored the area, and no one appeared to be in distress.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point was launched to the scene to search for anyone in distress. The chopper recovered the dive buoy and discovered that it was marked with a few stickers and the initials "Lt" handwritten with a white paint pen.
The Coast Guard reported later Wednesday that the owner of the flag and buoy had been found. The diver said that he and his son had lost the buoy while diving near Lahaina on Sunday.
"We are always happy when a case like this ends with identifying the owner and determining that no one was actually in jeopardy," said Lt. Jessica Mickelson, a search-and-rescue controller for the Coast Guard in Honolulu. "In most situations, we will conduct a search when we are notified of a possible distress situation, and we don't have enough amplifying information to rule out the possibility that someone could be in trouble.
"The concern here is that vital resources and taxpayers dollars are being expended unnecessarily when a watercraft is not labeled."
The Coast Guard advises the public to label all watercraft and equipment with contact information in order to quickly account for owners and prevent unnecessary searches.
Through the Operation Paddle Smart program, the Coast Guard offers a free "If Found" decal to be placed in a visible location on watercraft. The stickers can be obtained at local harbormasters, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, from Honolulu Sail and Power Squadron offices, and at select marine retail and supply stores.