U.S. Coast Guard suspends search for helicopter in waters off Alaska piloted by man accused of sexual missconduct

The U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday suspended the search in waters off Alaska for an overdue helicopter piloted by the former head of Alaska’s largest tribal health care organization, who resigned last week after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against him.

Andy Teuber, 52, former head of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, left Anchorage about 2 p.m. Tuesday in a Robinson R66 helicopter enroute to Kodiak Island, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

The Coast Guard was contacted about three hours later by family when he didn’t arrive in Kodiak, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) south of Anchorage.

“After an extensive search with our available assets resulting in inconclusive findings, it’s with a heavy heart that we have to suspend this search pending any new information. I offer my deepest condolences to those affected by this incident,” Cmdr. Matthew Hobbie, the Coast Guard search and rescue coordinator, said in a statement.

The Coast Guard used a helicopter, HC-130 Hercules airplane and the cutter Stratton to search about 1,022 square miles (2,647 square kilometers) over 13 hours.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Lexie Preston said ending searches is based upon weather, water temperatures and the survivability rate of the missing person.

Preston said that planes searching for Teuber on Tuesday found a debris field in the Gulf of Alaska, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) northeast of Kodiak.

However, she said searchers could not “confirm that was that helicopter.” Crews searching Wednesday did not locate the debris, Preston said.

“The debris that was initially located yesterday evening was consistent with debris that would have been found on the overdue helicopter,” Hobbie said.

Teuber owns the helicopter, which is used for sightseeing and charter trips through his company, Kodiak Helicopters LLC, according to state records.

Teuber abruptly resigned on Feb. 23 from the health care organization and as a member of the University of Alaska Board of Regents. At the time, no reason was given.

However, his former assistant described a pattern of abusive behavior, harassment and coerced sexual counters by Teuber in a three-page letter to consortium officials that was obtained by the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica. She resigned the same day.

“Andy unrelentingly coerced, forced, and required sex of me,” Savanah Evans said in the letter.

The Associated Press does not usually name victims of alleged sexual misconduct, but the Anchorage Daily News said she gave permission to use her name. Their story was published online Tuesday.

She claimed the abuse, much of which took place in consortium offices, derailed her personal and professional life.

In an email to the newspaper on Monday, Teuber denied Evans’ allegations, calling it a “completely consensual personal relationship.”

“The allegations of wrongdoing that I have been made aware of are false, and these allegations and their timing appear designed to portray me unjustly and falsely; to damage my personal and family relationships; but especially to sabotage my recent engagement and new marriage; and to undermine my professional prospects,” Teuber wrote.

Teuber led the consortium for over a decade and was paid more than $1 million per year.

The consortium is co-owner and manages the Alaska Native Medical Center, one of three hospitals in Anchorage. The health organization provides services to more than 170,000 Alaska Natives and employs more than 3,000 people.

The consortium said it will conduct its own independent, outside investigation.

Teuber had headed the health consortium since 2008, according to a biography posted on the Alaska Federation of Natives webpage.

Teuber also served on the federation’s board and has been president of the Kodiak Area Native Association since 2006.

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Source: Associated Press – MARK THIESSEN

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