Over the Memorial Day weekend, disaster struck one of the two boats that a family of eight had hired to go fishing in Alaska.
Three people died and two more are still missing, even though hundreds of square miles of ocean have been searched desperately.
The tragedy broke up the Tyau family. Two sisters and one of their husbands died, and the other sister’s husband and the boat captain are still missing four days after the boat was found partly underwater off an island in southeast Alaska.
Authorities stopped a search that had been going on for more than 20 hours and covered 825 square miles (2,100 square kilometers) on Monday. They don’t plan to start it up again.
On the other charter boat were the women’s parents, older brother, and sister-in-law. They were on a three-day trip to a place known for king salmon and groundfish.
Even though the sisters and their sister-in-law didn’t like fishing, they went on the trip to spend more time with their family, who usually lived in Los Angeles and Hawaii.
The older brother, Michael Tyau, told The Associated Press on Thursday, “We hadn’t all been together in the same place in so long that we just wanted to have a simple family get-together.” “It’s really sad that it turned out this way.”
Michael, Brandi, and Danielle Tyau fished with their parents in Hawaii when they were young. Michael Tyau said that his sisters hated being cold and wet, but they would do it for their water-loving parents and, later, their partners.
Robert Solis, Brandi Tyau’s longtime boyfriend and a former Navy diver who later became a private investigator and was stationed in Hawaii when they met decades ago, was a person for whom “the ocean was really his life,” according to one of Solis’ brothers.
So, when the mother of the Tyau children offered a family trip last year, they chose to go fishing in the Sitka Sound.
“I think my sisters agreed, but they didn’t want to,” Michael Tyau said.
He and his wife flew with Brandi Tyau, 56, and Solis, 61, from Los Angeles to Alaska on Thursday. They met their Hawaii-based parents, sister Danielle Agcaoili, 53, and her husband, Maury Agcaoili, 57.
In Sitka, the whole family stayed at a camp owned by Kingfisher Charters, which rents out boats. The small port city is on the shore of Baranof Island, which is part of a group of islands off the southeast coast of Alaska. Behind the city is a beautiful volcanic mountain.
Kingfisher Charters says on its website that the area is a “premier fishing destination” for tourists because the islands make many bays and passageways that protect from wind and waves on days when the open sea is too rough.
Forrest Braden, the head of the Southeast Alaska Guides Organization, said that most fish who visit the area stay for more than one day.
“For a lot of people, it’s more of a fishing-themed trip than just one of many things they do,” he said.
The Tyau clan rented two boats, called the Pockets and the Awakin. They left on Friday, when the weather was rough. Michael Tyau said that his sisters and wife got sick on the trip and spent the day in the cabins of the two boats. They skipped the trip on Saturday to rest on land.
When Sunday morning came, the women went back to their boats. This was their last day of holiday before their flights home on Monday.
Michael Tyau told me through tears that Danielle Agcaoili said “she didn’t want to let anyone down.”
The boat leaders chose different places to fish. On the Pockets, Michael Tyau said, “I never felt in danger or like we shouldn’t be fishing here.”
When the Pockets got back to the lodge on Sunday night, Brandi Tyau, Danielle Agcaoili, Maury Agcaoili, and Solis didn’t answer their texts and didn’t show up for dinner. This made the family worried.
The charter company told Michael Tyau that the Awakin hadn’t come back and that they had lost radio contact with the 32-year-old captain, Morgan Robidou.
Sunday’s events on the Awakin are still not clear. Rough waves and strong winds have made it harder to find the aluminum boat, which is 30 feet (9 meters) long.
Inside the house, the bodies of Brandi Tyau and Danielle Agcaoili were found. The body of Maury Agcaoili was found near the boat. Thursday, Solis and Robidou were still thought to be lost.
The last time anyone saw the boat was Sunday afternoon near Sitka, but around 7 p.m. Sunday was found partly underwater about 10 miles (16 km) west of Sitka, near Low Island.
Investigators from the Coast Guard are trying to figure out what happened and why. A Coast Guard spokesman said that the area was getting waves between 6 feet and 11 feet (1.8 to 3.35 meters) high.
Kingfisher Charters did not answer questions outside of a statement made Wednesday. The statement said that the company is “devastated by the loss of the guests and captain of the Awakin” and is fully cooperating with an investigation that it hopes will “answer the questions about how it happened.”
It’s too late for the Tyau family. The deaths of Brandi Tyau, the quiet middle child who helped calm Solis down, and Danielle Agcaoili, the happy-go-lucky baby of the family who was often called “Dani,” have been very sad.
Solis and Brandi Tyau had one son together. Solis also had three sons from a former relationship. One of the Agcaoilis’ two kids just finished from high school.
The family’s trip was supposed to be a way for them to spend a holiday weekend together away from their homes in Hawaii and Los Angeles.
Michael Tyau said, “I don’t think all eight of us have been together in over 10 years.”
Now, there are only four left.