JUNEAU, Alaska — A dream Alaskan fishing trip turned into a horrific nightmare for a family of eight when calamity befell one of their two chartered boats over the Memorial Day weekend. The tragedy claimed three lives and two are yet to be found despite an extensive search across the vast oceanic expanse.
The Tyau family has been shattered by the catastrophe: Two sisters and one of their husbands tragically lost their lives, while another sister’s spouse and the boat’s captain are still missing in southeast Alaska. This came four days after their boat was discovered partially submerged near an island.
The search, which spanned more than 20 hours across 825 square miles (2,100 square kilometers), was discontinued on Monday, with no immediate plans to resume.
The rest of the family, including the sisters’ parents, their elder brother, and his wife, were aboard the second charter boat. They were on a three-day trip to a popular fishing spot known for its king salmon and groundfish.
Despite not being keen on fishing, the sisters and their sister-in-law joined the trip to spend more quality time with their family, usually dispersed between Hawaii and Los Angeles.
“Our family was finally reuniting after a long time. It was meant to be a simple reunion of eight, but it ended in devastation,” lamented Michael Tyau, the elder brother, in a conversation with The Associated Press.
The Tyau siblings — Michael, Brandi, and Danielle — had a childhood steeped in fishing, an activity favored by their parents in Hawaii. Despite their aversion to the cold and damp, the sisters braved the conditions for their water-loving parents and later, their partners.
Brandi Tyau’s partner, Robert Solis, a former Navy diver and private investigator, had a lifelong affinity for the ocean, according to one of Solis’ brothers.
Hence, when the idea of a family vacation was proposed last year, the Sitka Sound’s fishing excursion was the chosen adventure, despite the sisters’ hesitance.
Michael Tyau and his wife joined Brandi Tyau, 56, and Solis, 61, on their journey from Los Angeles to Alaska. They were met there by their parents, Danielle Agcaoili, 53, and her husband, Maury Agcaoili, 57, all residents of Hawaii.
The Tyau family lodged at Kingfisher Charters in Sitka, a quaint port city nestled against a breathtaking volcanic mountain on Baranof Island’s shore, a piece of the islands that cascade off southeast Alaska.
The area, known for being a top-tier fishing destination, attracts tourists because the numerous bays and straits offered by the islands provide a natural shield against windy conditions and high waves when the open sea becomes too tempestuous.
The Tyau family, aboard their chartered boats, the Pockets and the Awakin, ventured into choppy waters on Friday. On the initial journey, the women suffered from seasickness and decided to recuperate on land the next day.
By Sunday, the final day of their vacation before their Monday flight home, the women rejoined their boats, despite their lingering discomfort.
Despite choosing different fishing spots, both boat captains were confident of the journey’s safety. However, the Awakin, with Brandi Tyau, Danielle Agcaoili, Maury Agcaoili, and Solis on board, did not return that evening, triggering concern among the family waiting at the lodge.
The circumstances that transpired on the Awakin remain a mystery. Despite attempts, rough weather has made it difficult to salvage the 30-foot (9-meter) aluminum vessel.
The bodies of Brandi Tyau and Danielle Agcaoili were found in the cabin, while Maury Agcaoili’s body was discovered near the boat. Solis and the captain, Morgan Robidou, are still missing.
The Coast Guard is conducting an investigation to ascertain the incident’s timeline and cause. The area had waves ranging from 6-foot to 11-foot (1.8- to 3.35-meter), a Coast Guard spokesperson confirmed.
Kingfisher Charters expressed their devastation over the loss in a statement and pledged their full cooperation with the investigation.
This tragic incident has left an indelible mark on the Tyau family, robbing them of Brandi Tyau, the peacekeeper, and Danielle Agcaoili, often referred to as “Dani,” the cheerful soul.
Brandi Tyau and Solis are survived by their son, and Solis’ three sons from a prior relationship. The Agcaoilis leave behind two children, with one just graduating from high school.
The family vacation was meant to bridge the geographical distance between their residences in Hawaii and Los Angeles. “I think it’s been over a decade since all eight of us were together,” said a devastated Michael Tyau.
Now, the family reunion stands at just four.