A nearly two week-long search for seven missing seal hunters in Alaska has been indefinitely postponed due to inclement weather, according to reports.
The boaters were due to arrive in Quinhagak on Oct. 20, but never showed up, prompting a massive search effort that involved multiple boats and planes, KYUK reported.
But on Saturday, Quinhagak Tribal Police Chief John Peter was forced to halt the search due to cold temperatures that were continuing to drop.
“I’m not even sure we’d be able to send out boats because of the ice that’s on the mouth of the river,” he told the outlet, which reported the postponement this week.
Chad Chadwick Sr., Neal Gutleben, Alexie Nose Jr., Michael Sharp, Elizabeth Wassillie, Willie Wassillie and Bernice Waska were last seen on Eek Island on Oct. 20 when they stopped to get gas, Peter told KTOO.
Three members of the group had left from Quinhagak in a 22-foot aluminum boat three days earlier, then picked up the four remaining members of the party in the community of Bethel, according to the Associated Press.
Peter said that they’d filled up with about 10 gallons of gas, which was enough for them to complete their journey, and theorized that their boat may have capsized.
A blizzard was in the forecast for this week, though Peter told KYUK that if temperatures warmed and the ice on the river broke, searchers would be able to continue looking. If not, they’d have to wait until the springtime.
“I wish we could search some more. But with this weather, I don’t want to risk anybody’s life to search,” he said.
In addition to local efforts, Alaska State Troopers and the U.S. Coast Guard were reportedly also on the hunt, but ended their search of Nunivak Island and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta coast on Oct. 27 after four days.
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