Coast Guard ends search for helicopter in waters off Alaska

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA (AP) — The United States (US) Coast Guard on Wednesday suspended the search in waters off Alaska for an overdue helicopter piloted by the former head of Alaska’s largest tribal healthcare organisation, who resigned last week after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against him.

Andy Teuber, 52, former head of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, left Anchorage about 2pm on Tuesday in a Robinson R66 helicopter enroute to Kodiak Island, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

The Coast Guard was contacted about three hours later by family when he didn’t arrive in Kodiak, about 400 kilometres south of Anchorage.

“After an extensive search with our available assets resulting in inconclusive findings, it’s with a heavy heart that we have to suspend this search pending any new information. I offer my deepest condolences to those affected by this incident,” Coast Guard Search and Rescue Coordinator Commander Matthew Hobbie said in a statement.

The Coast Guard used a helicopter, HC-130 Hercules airplane and the cutter Stratton to search about 2,647 square kilometres over 13 hours.

Former head of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Andy Teuber. PHOTO: AP

Coast Guard Petty Officer Lexie Preston said ending searches is based upon weather, water temperatures and the survivability rate of the missing person.

Preston said that planes searching for Teuber on Tuesday found a debris field in the Gulf of Alaska, northeast of Kodiak.

However, she said searchers could not “confirm that was that helicopter”. Crews searching on Wednesday did not locate the debris, Preston said.

“The debris that was initially located yesterday evening was consistent with debris that would have been found on the overdue helicopter,” Hobbie said.

On Wednesday night, the National Transportation Safety Board tweeted that it is investigating the crash.

Teuber owns the helicopter, which is used for sightseeing and charter trips through his company, Kodiak Helicopters LLC, according to state records.

Teuber abruptly resigned on February 23 from the healthcare organisation and as a member of the University of Alaska Board of Regents.

However, his former assistant described a pattern of abusive behaviour, harassment and coerced sexual counters by Teuber in a three-page letter to consortium officials that was obtained by the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica. She resigned the same day.

“Andy unrelentingly coerced, forced, and required sex of me,” Savanah Evans said in the letter.