Lost Hawaii fisherman found; son plans reunion – MiamiHerald.com

Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2014

When the Coast Guard told Zakary Ingraham they were suspending a search for his father, a Hawaii fisherman, he didn’t want to believe the father he lost contact with for at least 15 years was gone.

His father, Ron Ingraham, had been missing since Thanksgiving when he put out a mayday call saying he was in danger of sinking nearly 50 miles from the Big Island. The Coast Guard suspended the search on Dec. 1.

“I thought, well at least dad died doing what he loved,” the son recalled. “I was trying to emotionally quell myself. But at the same time, I kind of had that feeling he wasn’t gone yet.”

Then, he got word his father was found Tuesday, dehydrated and hungry but uninjured. Ron Ingraham arrived Wednesday on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, where he lives on his boat that was towed to shore by the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard had no details yet about what went wrong on Ron Ingraham’s boat or how he survived so long at sea.

Efforts by The Associated Press to reach Ron Ingraham through the Coast Guard on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

When the Coast Guard received the Thanksgiving mayday, officials sought to contact his next of kin, son Zakary Ingraham, 43, in Missouri. They were unable to reach him until the following Monday, the day they decided to suspend the search.

“It’s tough to put into words,” Zakary Ingraham said in a phone interview Wednesday from St. Joseph, Missouri, as his father was en route to Molokai.

“You’re crushed, and you don’t know what to do,” he said. “And of course, I’m in Missouri so that made it feel worse I couldn’t go out and look for him. It was horrible.”

Complicating his feelings was a wave of regret for all the years of lost contact and the fact that his father never met a grandson, 8.

“I always wanted to find him and get in touch with him,” Zakary Ingraham said. But his father lives on a boat, subsists off fishing and has no known email address or cellphone number.

“We didn’t really have a falling out,” the son said. “We just kind of grew apart.”

Zakary Ingraham lived in Kealakekua on the Big Island until age 7, when his parents split and he moved to Oahu with mother. He eventually moved to the mainland.

He recalled pleading with the Coast Guard to extend the search: “I held on to hope. I knew my dad was tough. So I didn’t feel like he was gone.”

For Coast Guard officials, calling off a search is the hardest choice they have to make, Lt. Scott Carr said.

“You’re making a decision to stop searching when you don’t have a resolution,” he said. “We searched for five days. … We used every resource we had, and we weren’t able to find him.”

A Navy ship was nearby when the Coast Guard received Ron Ingraham’s mayday Tuesday. Crew members from that vessel, guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton, gave him water and food.

“It’s the holidays. We all have family who we love and miss, being here stationed far away from the continental U.S.,” Carr said. “Anytime we rescue a mariner is a great day.”

Zakary Ingraham, a full-time college student, said he’s trying to get a loan so he can afford to travel to Hawaii to see his father.

“When I see my dad, I’m going to give him a big hug,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I can to get out there as soon as possible.”

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