OCEANSIDE, Calif. - The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended the search for a boater who disappeared off the North County coastline.
Crews aboard several boats and a helicopter searched for 52-year-old Oceanside resident Loren James Ruden for the third consecutive day, according to USCG Petty Officer 1st Class Henry Dunphy.
The effort continued into the early evening until the Coast Guard announced they had suspended the search at 7 p.m.
"After an exhaustive search effort utilizing a significant number of crews and assets, we've come to the very difficult decision to suspend this search," said Capt. Sean Mahoney, the commander of Sector San Diego. "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr. Ruden, and my deepest sympathy goes out to them."
The FBI joined in the investigation Tuesday because the case involves a U.S.-owned ship that departed from U.S. soil with a U.S. citizen on board, FBI Special Agent Darrell Foxworth said in a statement.
Ruden's sister, Angie Richards, told reporters that her brother ran commercial fishing charters but had gone for a pleasure ride the day he disappeared. She said the family is holding it together the best they can.
"He is a pillar of our family and we are being realistic, but we're still very, very, very hopeful," Richards told 10News on Wednesday morning.
Richards asked the boating community to keep an eye out or help look for her brother.
"Go out find him, get your boat in the water today as early as possible, go find him," Richards said.
Ruden, a married father of three grown children, was reported missing late Monday afternoon after Sadie, his Border Collie, swam to shore, ending up near an Oceanside jetty. A beachgoer caught the animal and located Ruden's wife using information on the Sadie's collar tag. How and where the animal left the boat was a mystery, but authorities believe that the canine swam to shore.
Oceanside police and the Coast Guard began searching for Ruden Monday night.
Shortly before 6 a.m. Tuesday, Ruden's 21-foot boat, named "Lucky Dog," was found unoccupied and circling under its own power off the coast of La Jolla. A boat crew with the federal maritime agency pulled alongside the 21- foot skiff, boarded it and turned off the engine, then towed the vessel back to Oceanside.
The FBI and Oceanside police examined the boat in hopes of determining what happened to Ruden. Dunphy said investigators looked at the vessel's GPS but it didn't appear to offer any clues. 10News learned that Ruden's GPS shows that "a man overboard switch" was activated six miles north of the Oceanside Harbor, but there is nothing that records the day or time that happened.
"It could've been because his dog went over um, we're not sure, but that was definitely marked in his GPS system and we've always felt he was somewhere in the harbor area, " said Richards.
They found one of several life jackets kept on the vessel was missing and it was presumed Ruden had been wearing it when he went overboard, according to Dunphy.
Richards described Ruden as an outdoorsman and avid fisherman.
"He's an athlete, he's a really good dad, he took care of his kids he sent them all to college," said Richards. "People always say why do bad things happen to good people? He's a good person and this is a bad thing that's happened to him and we want to bring him home."
Ruden's black Lab, Sadie, has been reunited with the family. 10News learned that the canine swam up to some children who were taking a surfing lesson.
"My reaction was like, what's that?" said Erik Krammer. "Oh my God, it's a dog. Then I was looking around, thinking maybe it fell of the jetty and then I was like there's nobody coming."
Krammer was teaching the class for International Surf Services. He said he called the number on the dog's tag, but it went right to voicemail, so he wrapped the dog in a towel and drove her to the address on the tag.
Krammer said that's when Loren Ruden's wife realized something had happened.
"I said I have your dog … I said I found it swimming in the ocean and she was like, "You what?" Krammer said, describing the moment as a happy reunion, but it was temporary.
"The dog just instantly perked up , hearing its owner's voice and jumped right up out of the car, that moment was really great, as they hugged and embraced each other ....but then the lady was like, 'But where, where's my husband?'" said Krammer.