A Navy air traffic controller whose apparent drowning while surf-fishing off Mugu Rock triggered a joint military and civilian search-and-rescue effort last week staged his disappearance to escape family problems, authorities said Thursday.
Petty Officer 1st Class Edwin Loder, 39, turned himself in to superiors at Point Mugu Naval Air Station earlier this week after a trip to Washington state, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department said.
Mary Loder reported her husband missing on the morning of Aug. 19 after finding his abandoned fishing tackle and car near Mugu Rock, a 500-yard spit extending from the Pacific Coast Highway. Police thought that Loder, who had gone fishing the night before, fell into the surf and was swept away by riptides.
The Sheriff’s Department and the Navy sent helicopters and divers to search for Loder that day and the next and continued twice-daily flyovers the rest of week, Sheriff’s Lt. Joe Harwell said.
Loder returned to the base Sunday night and told superiors that he left the area because of family problems, Harwell said.
Navy officials had Loder detained to undergo medical evaluation and returned him to duty in another job pending a base investigation, said Lt. Commander Gene Okamoto, a Navy spokesman. Loder was not gone long enough to be considered absent without leave, but could face other charges, Okamoto said.
Harwell said the Sheriff’s Department is awaiting the outcome of the Navy investigation before deciding whether to file criminal charges against Loder, who could be forced to reimburse the department more than $5,000 spent on the search effort.