Cole Rutzer and Dylan Furford grew up together in the South Beach fishing industry. Rutzer died last week and Furford is missing after they left the fishing boat they were on July 2 to take a smaller boat on a beachcombing excursion south of Kodiak Island, Alaska.
KMTX radio in Kodiak published the following account on its website, KMTX.org:
The U.S. Coast Guard says it recovered the body of Rutzer, 22, from Tugidak Island.
Rutzer and Furford were crab fishing on the (Westport-based) Pacific Dynasty and had left their boat on Thursday to go beach combing.
The Pacific Dynasty was anchored a half mile from Tugidak Island, a remote and unpopulated spot 125 miles south of Kodiak. The two men set out for the island, along with a dog, in a Zodiac skiff. They were supposed to return in time for dinner.
Scott McCann, a spokesman for the Coast Guard, said the men had filed a float plan with the master of the ship.
“When they didn’t come back in time, he gave them a little bit of extra time,” McCann said. “He knew something was wrong.”
The float plan, he said, helped narrow the search, which began at first light the next day at about 5:30 a.m. An hour later, searchers found the Zodiac on the beach and Rutzer’s body nearby. McCann said they also found two survival suits in the boat.
“It’s hard to find survival suits, because we want people to be wearing them,” McCann said. “Your chances of survival are a lot better.”
McCann says the dog was found running on the beach, but there was no sign of Furford.
Kevin Goodrich coached both men on the Ocosta High School wrestling team.
“They’ve been good friends for many years,” he told The Daily World. “They had a pretty tight group of friends and family.
“… I’ve talked to some of their family. A funny thing about both boys … Westport is a small community and everybody has extended family. Both boys probably spent some time under the wing of other families, and the relationships with kids in those families (is like siblings),” he said.
The men grew up in the fishing community and most people in that community knew them or their family members, he said.
Goodrich remembered the two as young men who got a lot from life. “They lived every moment. Any opportunity to go out and have fun — fishing, hunting, traveling, partying. Sometimes they were a little on the wild side maybe, but in the last couple of years, they were growing up to be really solid young men. If you were to ask people out here, you wouldn’t find a person who had a bad word to say about them.”
The search continued all day Friday with two C-130 aircraft as well as three helicopter and ended about 6 p.m. before it was suspended pending new information.
Searchers believe Rutzer and Furford made it to the island safely and may have been caught fighting the surf, as they tried to leave.
Tugidak Island has lonely vistas with vast stretches of grass and sand dunes, known for its seal haul out and productive fishing grounds. It features a large, shallow lagoon on the northeast side of the island.