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Searches for missing men called off on Big Island

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 5:28 a.m. HST, Jul 13, 2011

The Coast Guard and Hawaii County Fire Department have called off the search for a missing 79-year-old Hawaii County fisherman and for a man swept away by a flash flood.

Mitchell Wailani was reported overdue at about 4 p.m. Saturday. Wailani had left July 5 for a multi-day fishing trip, and his last known contact was when he spoke with someone Thursday evening.

A Hawaii County Fire Department helicopter found his boat had run aground in Papaikou Saturday evening with no one aboard.

The Coast Guard search involved a Hilo-based cutter, an HC-130 Hercules airplane and an MM-65 Dolphin helicopter along with the Coast Guard Auxiliary and fire rescue crews.

The Coast Guard used 20 search patterns and covered an estimated 3,206 square miles from Hilo Bay to Alenuihaha Channel.

The search also called off Tuesday for Ernesto Combes, 43, of Nanawale in Puna, was fishing for prawns when he was caught by a flash flood Sunday and swept down Kawainui Stream near Old Mamalahoa Highway in Papaikou, Big Island police said.

A 45-year-old woman was rescued. An ambulance took her to Hilo for treatment, fire officials said.

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