The search continues this morning in Oak Bluffs harbor for the whereabouts of Michael F. Landfear, 54, of Falmouth.
Mr. Landfear was last seen Tuesday night heading out on a small rowing pram to a boat moored in the harbor. U.S. Coast Guard, state and local police, together with public safety volunteers from three Island towns searched all day yesterday without result.
Last night, Sgt. Tim Williamson of the Oak Bluffs police said the search will continue today, the third day since Mr. Landfear was reported missing, with the same intensity; a large team of divers has been searching the bottom of the harbor since shortly after 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Mr. Landfear has been described as an expert on boat repair and service. Police did not know how long he had been living on the Island, though he is thought to have had several addresses here and on the Cape.
Sergeant Williamson said Mr. Landfear had been residing on a boat moored in Oak Bluffs harbor. "At this point, we do know he came over to the Island and worked for the gentleman who owns the boat," Sergeant Williamson said.
The owner of the boat, whose name was not released, is the last person to have seen the man. The police officer said the two had parted company on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the dinghy dock near Church's Pier in Oak Bluffs. It was thought that Mr. Landfear boarded the pram and rowed back to the moored boat to spend the night.
Sergeant Williamson said the boat owner was supposed to meet with Mr. Landfear to talk about the job list the next morning. "When he didn't show up for the meeting, he became concerned and contacted Todd Alexander, the harbor master. He didn't have any way to get out to his boat and Todd took him out there."
At 3 p.m. Wednesday, a search and rescue team of volunteers walking the shoreline found the damaged eight foot bright blue pram washed up on the shore below East Chop. The small outboard that had been on it was torn from the transom. The oars of the boat were discovered just inside the harbor and the outboard spotted near the rocks by the East Chop lighthouse. A shore side search ran from the Lagoon Pond drawbridge all the way around East Chop to Harthaven. The water search was directed mostly to the inner harbor and the waters just outside.
Between 75 to 100 volunteer firemen, divers and Red Cross personnel were involved in the search, said Dennis P. Alley, Oak Bluffs fire chief. Divers from the Edgartown Fire Department and the West Tisbury Fire Department helped the home town firemen and their rescue divers in the search. The Oak Bluffs dive team was headed by assistant chief Pete Forend and Capt. Bruce O'Donnell.
In the early stages of the search, the teams used the Nelson W. Amaral Fire Station as the command center.
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter from Cape Air station participated on Wednesday. A Coast Guard 41-foot utility boat from Woods Hole with a full crew also arrived at the scene. Yesterday afternoon, the Coast Guard rescue boat, commanded by Justin Longval, was on the scene, moving slowly through the water.
A well trained golden retriever named Orion, owned by Karen Ogden, a Dukes County search and rescue coordinator, was involved in the water search. The dog, skilled in searching for missing people, was fitted with a life vest and stood on the bow of a search boat, looking for a scent. The boat glided across a calm harbor.
Meals, donated by Cronig's Market, were served by Red Cross volunteers.
Sgt. William L. Searle, of the state environmental police, said, "The support that something like this gets from the community is absolutely superb. Phenomenal cooperation."
At least 18 divers in black wet suits participated in the search. Many of the divers contributed long hours under water. Searches were suspended at night to give personnel time to rest.
Yesterday afternoon there were a number of different boats involved in the search, following a grid. Throughout the afternoon, Todd Alexander, harbor master, ran his powerboat back and forth across the harbor, flashing blue lights. Some divers held onto plywood boards and were towed. The water temperature was just under 60 degrees.
Chief Dennis Alley of the Oak Bluffs Fire Department said he is proud of his men. "I can't give them enough praise, for going through this over a couple of days. Coming up empty handed works on their minds. It seems at the end of the day, when you haven't succeeded, you seem to get a lot more tired. When you get closure to something like this, you take a deep breath and you feel pretty relaxed. They are doing a terrific job. They do it without squawks, they do it without pay. If this weren't volunteer, this would cost a lot of money."