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Local News

Searchers Recover Kayak, Backpack Belonging to Missing Kayaker

Vandenberg AFB personnel have taken over the search for Sean Fleming, who went fishing Saturday off Gaviota State Beach

Crews searching Tuesday for a Lompoc man who went missing while kayaking off Gaviota State Beach on Saturday found a backpack and the kayak belonging to the man.

Sean Daniel Fleming, a 32-year-old Vandenberg Air Force Base firefighter and a water rescue team leader with the Vandenberg Fire Department, was reported missing Monday after he failed to show up for work. Friends who knew he had gone fishing Saturday drove to Gaviota and found his pickup truck in the parking lot.

A spokesman for the 30th Space Wing at the base said late Tuesday that Vandenberg personnel have taken over the search efforts, which continued until late Tuesday and will resume at daylight Wednesday.

“Our thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time,” said Col. Richard Boltz, 30th Space Wing commander. “Vandenberg will continue the search and rescue effort to find Sean until all avenues are exhausted.”

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, Santa Barbara County Fire and Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue began searching the area Monday evening.

About 10 a.m. Tuesday, searchers scouring the area found a backpack in the ocean about eight miles south of Santa Barbara. The Sheriff’s Department confirmed that it contained items owned by Fleming, spokesman Drew Sugars said.

About 2:30 p.m., a kayak was discovered south of Summerland, about nine miles east of where the backpack had been found. Sugars said it was confirmed that the kayak was the one that Fleming used when he went out fishing.

Shane Allison, who went to high school with Fleming in Ojai and now lives in Dallas, Texas, told Noozhawk in an e-mail Tuesday that Fleming had been a firefighter since his senior year of high school.

“Sean is an awesome guy, with a ton of friends,” he said. “The guy always has a smile on his face.”

At the height of Tuesday’s search, the following agencies had deployed the following resources: Sheriff’s Department, one search and rescue coordinator and one helicopter; county Search and Rescue, three search overhead command staff and eight searches; County Fire, five searches, one helicopter and four personal watercraft; Vandenberg Fire, 14 personnel and six personal watercraft; State Parks, two searchers and two personal watercraft; and the U.S. Coast Guard, one helicopter and one cutter.

Also assisting the search effort were personnel from the Lompoc Police Department, the Santa Barbara City Fire Department, the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District and the Ventura County Sheriff Aviation Department.

Noozhawk managing editor Michelle Nelson can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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