Andre Krasowskis is a fun-loving guy who likes a practical joke. That’s what his mother decided to think about Friday, trying to keep her hopes up, trying to be brave.
Krasowskis, a 21-year-old worker at the YMCA’s Camp Fox on Santa Catalina Island, rowed a dinghy offshore to perform a routine chore Thursday afternoon and did not return, apparently blown to sea by gusting winds. His disappearance touched off a search by land, sea and air that proceeded through Friday without success.
“Maybe he took the boat to see a girl at another camp. I wouldn’t put it past him,” Krasowskis’ mother, Lydia Krasowskis, said with a half-hearted laugh in a telephone interview from her bakery in Avalon.
“He’s probably out there somewhere and can’t wait to come back and tell us about his adventure. . . . Maybe he’ll walk in here and say it as all a joke. . . . I wish. I wish.”
Precisely how Krasowskis disappeared remained a mystery Friday.
Dave Horne, winter manager of Camp Fox, said that when winds started picking up Thursday afternoon, he instructed Krasowskis to row out to a ski boat moored about 100 yards offshore and remove a canvas cover that seemed in danger of blowing off.
The chore was “very routine,” something the 6-foot-4, 175-pound Krasowskis “had done a hundred times before,” Horne said. He “knew how to handle a rowboat real well.”
Sea Relatively Calm
The sea, Horne said, was relatively calm--"a little bit of wind chop, but no surge, no swell. . . . Yeah, I’m puzzled. I’m upset. He’s a friend, not just an employee.”
About an hour later, workers realized Krasowskis and the rowboat were gone--apparently blown out to sea by gusts funneled through Catalina’s canyons. Horne set out in a ski boat to check nearby coves, and Avalon Harbor Patrol joined the search.
On Thursday night and all day Friday the Coast Guard was coordinating a search of the Catalina coast and the channel, where swells ranged from six to eight feet, driven by westerly gusts of 20 knots to 40 knots.
A Navy fast frigate, two Coast Guard cutters, helicopters from the Coast Guard and Sheriff’s Department and a Coast Guard Falcon jet searched from Catalina to the mainland.
Two flares were sighted during the night off San Clemente Island, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Elizabeth Fleming, but the assumption is that Krasowskis did not have flares. A separate search-and-rescue operation was under way to find the source of the flares.
Concern Over Hypothermia
“Our concern right now is hypothermia,” Fleming said. “The survival for a person in the water is about six hours estimated, without a wet suit.” Water temperature Friday morning was 55 degrees.
While the Coast Guard conducted its search, Andre’s father, Paul, traveled by truck to search the western side of Catalina. The Krasowskis family had moved to Catalina from Santa Barbara two years ago, opening Bayside Bakery. Andre came along while his twin sister, Katrina, remained in Santa Barbara.
Despite her anxiety, Lydia Krasowskis decided to open the shop Friday--"sort of.” Her doctor, she said, gave her a tranquilizer to calm her nerves.
Andre Krasowskis, described by his mother as handsome and charming--"a real lady-killer"--had once planned on joining the Coast Guard, she said.
Lydia Krasowskis said she was encouraged to learn that the ski boat’s canvas cover was missing. True, it may have blown off, she said, but perhaps her son had removed it, and now she could envision him sitting in the dinghy, wrapped in canvas against the cold winds.
“They haven’t found an empty boat yet,” she said. “He’s a smart kid. I hope he stayed in the boat.”