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Updated 11:00am - Nov 26, 2014

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Boat flips, angler missing

A Coast Guard helicopter out of Eureka searches for a missing angler on the Smith River early Friday night. (The Daily Triplicate/Bryant Anderson).
A Coast Guard helicopter out of Eureka searches for a missing angler on the Smith River early Friday night. (The Daily Triplicate/Bryant Anderson).

By Bill Choy

Triplicate Staff Writer

Law enforcement officials continued to search the Smith River late Friday evening, hoping to find a Crescent City man swept down the river in the Hiouchi area that afternoon.

Del Norte County Sheriff's Department Commander Bill Steven said search crews planned to be out at 7 a.m. this morning in hopes of finding Chester Bolen, 39.

This includes a Coast Guard helicopter from Eureka, and a sheriff's boat and personal watercraft.

Steven expressed hope that Bolen could still be alive, perhaps clutching onto branches in the river, or on the shoreline, suffering from hyperthermia and too weak to get help.

"I wouldn't be surprised to find Chester alive, but a lot is going against him, but we're optimistic," he said.

Bolen and Steven Restad, 39, of Eugene, were enjoying the day fishing in a drift boat on the Smith River, between Jedediah Smith State Park and the Hiouchi Bridge.

The day turned treacherous when the boat's anchor ended up being knocked into the water between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., Steven said.

The anchor became hung-up and started to drag the small boat under the water, dropping Bolen and Restad into the cold, swift river.

Neither man had on any flotation devices, Steven said.

Restad was able to swim to shore and was assisted by people at the shoreline. Authorities were contacted a short time later.

Restad told authorities the last time he saw Bolen, he was trying to stay afloat, but was being pushed down the river by the swift current.

A Coast Guard helicopter, a California Highway Patrol plane, sheriff's officials and members of the department's search and rescue team, the Smith River, Hiouchi and Fort Dick fire departments, a sheriff's boat, the CHP, California Fish and Game, and Redwood National and State Park officials helped in the search for Bolen, Steven said.

Dive team members from the sheriff's department were also at the scene on standby.

By nightfall, there was no sign of the missing man.

But the darkness did not keep searchers from looking for Bolen, as they continued to scan the river and surrounding shoreline – lighting the area – looking for any trace of Bolen.

Debris from the boat was discovered floating in the river, Steven said.

He said it was fortunate Restad could swim ashore, despite wearing heavy clothing while battling the swift current and the extremely cold river water.

It's vital to always carry flotation devices on a boat, Steven said. He said it makes sense to carry flotation devices "when you're in swift, cold water on a cold January day."

But it also makes sense "on a warm July day," as well, Steven said.

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