Family members of a Nebraskan missing in the Pacific Ocean somewhere between New Zealand and Australia are holding out hope — despite no word from the schooner on which Kyle Jackson served as a deckhand.
Rescue crews believe the Nina, a classic American schooner, sank in rough waters between the two island nations. But they haven't given up on finding survivors, including the 27-year-old Jackson, who left Long Pine in north-central Nebraska in search of adventure.
“We're hanging onto hope right now,” said Duane Jackson, Kyle's father.
A third day of aerial searches Friday resulted in no sign of the 85-year-old wooden sailboat or its crew.
The boat left New Zealand on May 29 bound for Australia. The last known contact with the crew was June 4. Rescuers were alerted that the boat was missing June 14 but weren't unduly worried at first because the emergency locator beacon had not been activated.
The six others on board: Capt. David Dyche, 58; his wife, Rosemary, 60; and their son David, 17, their friend Evi Nemeth, 73; a woman age 18 — all from the United States — and a British man, age 35.
Jackson is a University of Nebraska graduate who had been working for his father on a ranch outside Long Pine.
Jackson last communicated with his family via email May 28, said his father.
“We've been in contact with search-and-rescue in New Zealand,” he said.
Duane Jackson said his son had been hired by the boat's captain as a deckhand. He said Kyle had no experience as a sailor, but he was athletic and was always looking for adventure.
“He's always had to see what's over the next hill,” Jackson said. “This was just another adventure for him. He's been all over the world at 27.”
Jackson said Kyle graduated from Rock County High School.
“He's not a large person by any means,” said his father, “but he's been doing triathlons after high school. He's very fit.”
In November, a nephew of Nemeth's invited Kyle to New Zealand, Duane Jackson said. From there, he said, Kyle joined the Nina and had sailed a few times before the May 29 trip.
“I don't think the Australia trip was (long) planned,” said Jackson, who lives in town and runs the grass-cattle operation for the ranch outside Long Pine. “He (Kyle) had talked of sailing to Fiji.”
Kyle had a plane ticket to return to Nebraska on July 15 to visit his grandmother, his father said. His grandfather died just before Kyle left on the Australia trip.
The younger Jackson had no wife or kids, said his father, and nothing to keep him tied to one location.
“When he'd work for me,” he said, “we'd be done on a Thursday night, and he'd go off and camp somewhere for the rest of the week.”
The leader of search efforts, Neville Blakemore of New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Center, said it's now logical to assume the 70-foot boat sank in a storm but added that it's possible some crew members survived either in the life raft that was aboard or by making land.
Friday's search focused on the coastline around northern New Zealand, including the small Three Kings Islands. Rescuers were looking for wreckage or the life raft.
Blakemore said the logical conclusion is that the boat sank rapidly, preventing the crew from activating the locator beacon or using other devices aboard, including a satellite phone and a spot beacon.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.