Two people dead, missing boat recovered off Tomales Point

A search for two missing boaters who set out Friday from Bodega Harbor is expected to resume Sunday, after their boat and two bodies were recovered Saturday off Tomales Point.

The National Park Service and Marin County Fire Department will continue the search on land. However, authorities don’t plan to continue the search in the water, said Patrick Viall, the father of one of the missing boaters.

“They called off the search,” Viall said. “It’s going to be a land search now.”

He said his son, Ryan Viall, 28, was part of a fishing party of four that launched Friday from Bodega Harbor.

The bodies of two people who were aboard the 21-foot boat were recovered Saturday from the waters off Tomales Point in the Point Reyes National Seashore, Coast Guard officials said. However, Viall, 52, said his son wasn’t one of them.

“Mostly likely he’ll be lost at sea,” he said about his son, a certified electrician who lived in Windsor. “It’s going to leave a huge hole in my heart.”

Authorities searched for the remaining boaters in the waters from Bodega Bay to Tomales Point on Saturday. However, they called off the search at sunset, Coast Guard Lt. Junior Grade Amanda Faulkner said Saturday afternoon.

“Suspending a search is never an easy decision and is only done after intense scrutiny and evaluation of search efforts as a whole,” Coast Guard Capt. Greg Stump said in a statement.

Two Coast Guard vessels had been searching the waters in and beyond Bodega Bay since Friday evening, after a woman reported that the group had not returned to shore, Faulkner said.

At 10:13 a.m. Saturday, the crew aboard the Sonoma County sheriff’s helicopter, Henry 1, spotted the overturned boat amid the rocks near Tomales Point in Marin County, Lt. Greg Miller said.

One body was recovered from the shore of Bird Rock, a 2-acre island off the western coast of Tomales Point, said Faulkner of the Coast Guard. Another body was found offshore in a floating debris field that included a boat engine and other items that appeared to have been from the small craft that had launched from Bodega Harbor, she said.

The group had set out at about 5 a.m. Friday from the Westside Regional Park boat launch to fish for salmon, Faulkner said.

A woman called authorities at 7:30 p.m. to report they hadn’t returned, Faulkner said. One of the boaters was expected to have come ashore in time to attend a 5 p.m. event. Officials confirmed the woman’s report with another family member, Faulkner said.

The Bodega Bay Coast Guard station’s 47-foot lifeboat launched immediately and was joined by the 87-foot Coast Guard cutter Hawksbill from San Francisco. Marin County fire and National Park Service personnel also scanned the water and shoreline.

The evening search was made more difficult by heavy fog that limited visibility to about 200 yards.

The seas had swells of about 6 to 10 feet and the wind was at 10 knots, typical conditions off the Sonoma Coast and potentially hazardous to small vessels, Faulkner said.

The Coast Guard spokeswoman said she was told the boat’s pilot was an experienced mariner.

Patrick Viall said his son was an avid fisherman who loved the outdoors. However, he said he doesn’t understand why his son went out to sea in the bad weather conditions.

“They should have never continued,” he said. “There was no visibility.”

Viall expressed thanks to the authorities who searched the tough waters since Friday, calling them “heroes.” He said all he can hope now is that his son’s body is recovered.

“I’m just hoping that at this point that I can get closure down the road,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or On Twitter @jjpressdem. You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 521-5458 or On Twitter @eloisanews.

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