Search for missing boater suspended

The search for a 45-year-old Newport Beach man whose skiff was found a quarter mile off Santa Catalina Island early Sunday morning was suspended Monday, according to a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman who said too much time had elapsed for the victim to still be alive.

The nearly 24-hour search for Frank Cipriano, last seen wearing a polo shirt and board shorts, was called off at 9:55 a.m. Monday after numerous search-and-rescue boats and more than a dozen helicopter flights tried unsuccessfully to find him, said Jim Hiltz, a command center chief for the U.S. Coast Guard in San Pedro's Terminal Island.

"It's not a thing of 'giving up,'" Hiltz said. "When we received the report that he was missing at 9:55 a.m. Sunday, we launched a number of assets: boats, aircraft, dive teams and a land-based search. Essentially, we had three Coast Guard cutters searching for roughly 24 hours."

At 5 feet 9 and weighing about 160 pounds, Hiltz said Cipriano had, at most, 16 hours of survival time in the waters off Catalina.

Making matters worse is that Cipriano apparently had not been wearing a life jacket at the time he departed from Catalina in the skiff sometime late Saturday evening or early Sunday morning, Hiltz said.

"We took a look at his height and weight and we heavily saturated the area with our search," Hiltz said, adding that there were at least 10 helicopter flights carried out in an attempt to find Cipriano. "Basically, we had continuous coverage of that area — from the time we got the report on Sunday until sunset."

Additionally, two patrol boats searched through the night, Hiltz said.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department also helped search for Cipriano on land on Catalina , which is 18 miles long and 8 miles wide at its widest point, sheriff's deputies said.

Reserve Deputy Sheriff Gary Pfahler, who works in Avalon, said Cipriano was reported missing by a family who had hired him to pilot their boat, the Indecent Proposal.

Cipriano apparently took his dogs for a walk Saturday night, but sometime early Sunday morning decided to take his skiff out, Pfahler said.

"He apparently took his dogs for a walk on land, brought them back, then sometime in the night or early morning, his skiff was found a quarter mile out, with no one in it," said Pfahler.

Cipriano is not married and does not have children, according to Hiltz.

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