Molokai resident Tim Emmanuel was fishing at Moomomi Bay Monday night when he saw a red blinking light in the sky.
“I just see one red blinking light descending toward the ocean fast,” said Emmanuel of Hoolehua. Within two seconds, the light disappeared.
At first, Emmanuel, 34, thought it was a drone. But shortly afterward, he saw an aircraft hover over the ocean and point a bright spotlight toward the water where the blinking light was last seen.
It wasn’t until the Tuesday morning that he learned two men were reported missing after a helicopter disappeared off the northwest coast of Molokai.
Emmanuel then went to the Hoolehua Fire Station and reported to the fire captain what he had witnessed at the bay.
The U.S. Coast Guard, Navy and Maui Fire Department are continuing the search today for the two men, Jeremy Dossetter, 27, and Oliver Kirsch, 25, of Mauna Loa Helicopters. Two helicopters from the company also will assist in the search.
So far, the search team has scoured about 7,200 square miles, according to Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Levasseur.
Weather conditions in the search area are 25 to 30 mph winds and 8-foot seas.
At 7:26 p.m. Monday, the Coast Guard received a call from the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport control tower reporting that they had lost communications with the Robinson R44 helicopter.
The two men were aboard the helicopter for flight training when they left Honolulu Monday and were heading back to Oahu when the airport’s control tower lost communications.
The Coast Guard spotted debris about 1.5 miles off of the island’s northwest coast, however, the agency could not confirm whether it was from the missing aircraft.
At about 8:25 a.m. Tuesday, the fire department’s Air 1 helicopter spotted an uninflated yellow vest floating in the water about 100 yards off of Ilio Point. Crews recovered the vest and turned it to over to police.
The helicopter scanned the shoreline from Moomomi Beach to Ilio Point while ground crews combed nearshore areas.