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Jun 22, 2010 11:38 PM by Ariel Wesler

Clues turn up in search for missing kayaker

Crews have located the kayak and backpack belonging to 32-year-old Sean Fleming of Lompoc. He vanished Saturday afternoon after launching his kayak from Gaviota State Beach. He was reported missing Monday when he didn't show up for work.

By air and by water, search crews from Santa Barbara county combed 130 square miles of coastline, stretching from Gaviota to Ventura County--looking for the missing kayaker, 32-year-old Sean Fleming of Lompoc.

"The shoreline from here south to the Santa Barbara area can be very ruggeed in various places, so it takes a lot of time to check those through," said Doug Jones with Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue.

After two days, the search takes a turn. A fishing vessel discovers Fleming's backpack while heading toward the Channel Islands.

"It's got personal items, so it's a clue for us that he is somewhere. Now, it doesn't dictate his location because again those tides and those currents can take that backpack in a number of different directions," Jones said.

Nearly five hours later, another boat discovers a kayak south of Summerland--just nine miles east of where the backpack was found.

"If anybody can survive a situation like this and outsteer conditions that we see in the ocean, it would be Sean," said Jeremy Eggers, a spokesperson for Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Sean Fleming is a 12-year veteran with the Vandenberg Fire Department and a team leader on its water rescue unit,a close knit team, committed to leaving nobody behind.

Rescue crews believe Fleming didn't have a wet suit or flotation device when he went into the water Saturday afternoon. Under those conditions, the coast guard estimates he could only survive up to 10 hours.

"Emotions are probably high but you have to set that aside and focus on the task at hand which is finding Sean," Eggers said.

The Coast Guard has called of its search, but Santa Barbara County search and rescue will continue to evaluate the situation.

Many people are assisting the sheriff's office, including Santa Barbara County fire, state parks, the Coast Guard, and the Vandenberg Fire Department.


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