Searchers for missing Palo Alto couple focus on the water, following alerts from cadaver dogs | News | Palo Alto Online |


Searchers for missing Palo Alto couple focus on the water, following alerts from cadaver dogs

One week later, Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin have yet to be found

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The Marin County Sheriff's Office Dive Team prepares diving gear at the Inverness Yacht Club in Inverness on Feb. 19 before taking their search for missing Palo Alto residents Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin to Tomales Bay. The sheriff's office plans to continue its search on Feb. 21. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Update: Searchers located missing Palo Alto residents Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin alive on Saturday, Feb. 22. Read our latest story here.


With the search for Palo Alto residents Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin nearly reaching the one-week mark, the Marin County Sheriff's Office is shifting gears by bringing in the U.S. Coast Guard and cadaver K9 teams, now calling it a "recovery mission," the office said in a Thursday press release.

Though the sheriff's office received four independent alerts from cadaver dogs around Shell Beach, which is about 2 miles away from the couple's rental home, no updates were made on the couple's whereabouts on Thursday.

"We believe that our extensive search efforts with every resource that has been available to us would have located Carol and Ian if they were responsive or in an area accessible by foot on land," the sheriff's office said. "We've worked tirelessly combing through all leads and areas surrounding the cottage they were vacationing at."

The Palo Alto couple was last heard from on Feb. 14 when they were staying at a rented vacation cottage on Via De La Vista. They were due to check out last Saturday morning and missed a Sunday appointment with the family, according to the sheriff's office.

The couple had left behind personal items including cellphones, wallets, hiking gear and their vehicle. Authorities said no foul play is suspected.

"This is a really weird time for our family. There is no playbook for something like this," Irwin's son, Jonas, said to KGO-TV news. "My dad was somebody, who when he was really into the backpacking thing, would do snow camping and cut into ice and make fire. He is super resourceful."

Since Monday, several agencies including Inverness's volunteer fire department stepped in to aid the search of Irwin, 72, and Kiparsky, 77, utilizing many resources from jet skis, boats, helicopters, K9 teams, drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, among others, but coming out with little to no leads.

On Thursday, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter aided deputies and the Inverness Fire Department with their search around Tomales Bay and the shoreline of Inverness, a quiet community 3.5 miles northwest of Point Reyes Station.

On Friday, the sheriff's office will use jet skis, National Park Service boats, an airplane and drones to comb the same areas.

Another search will be conducted with ground searchers, K9 teams, NPS boats, an airplane and drones on Saturday, followed by more NPS boats and an airplane search of Tomales Bay on Sunday. On Monday, the search effort will be reduced to jet skis.

Inverness residents have been mystified by the missing persons case, which is uncommon for the small, peaceful town.


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6 people like this
Posted by Illuminato
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2020 at 2:12 pm

This is interesting to me because I have been watching a lot of videos about missing persons. A lot of people have been disappearing in very mysterious ways, never to be seen again. I think the most likely scenario in this case is that they went for a walk on the beach, one of them took their shoes off to wade in the surf. A big wave hit them, knocked them down and they got pulled out into the surf zone. The other person tried to save them and they both got swept out to sea.

20 people like this
Posted by A Possibility
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 21, 2020 at 2:16 pm

I suspect an alien abduction.

It has happened before and there are various accounts from those who got away.

5 people like this
Posted by candice
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2020 at 2:34 pm

I know the couple, they have been in one of my exercise classes for a year. I have followed the story since I first heard about it Sunday evening, and have been thinking about it non-stop, ever since.

I have to agree with Illuminato. I believe they meant to take a quick walk to the beach, and that is why they left all their belongings behind. One of them fell into the water, the other tried to rescue him/her, and they both got swept away.

This isn't a criticism, but when the search for them began, it sounded like the focus was completely on land. If they fell into the water on Friday, and the search didn't even begin until Sunday, and the water search didn't begin until Wed., there was plenty of time for their bodies to float out into the ocean.

I hope to God they are found, one way or another, because an open-ended mystery is torture.

2 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 21, 2020 at 2:42 pm

This is in some ways a private matter and not appropriate for the local newspaper and especially the internet. Maybe someday we non-family members will learn facts that support my speculative view. We mere neighbors. Or people on their list-servs (I got a note from Carol a few months back about a political event she thought I and others might want to attend).

This reminds me of the local coverage of John Neumann (1964-1984), my friend, and teammate and the valedictorian of the Gunn class of 1982, who attended Harvard. It started out as spot news at the New York Post, who called Times Tribune to get some more basic facts for their brief story. The first two local stories were off the mark - -because I knew John and had worked that winter at the PTT, I called Ruthann Richter, who convinced her editors to write another story, the actual story, or as much as the family would share (none of the first three stories had talked to family members).

Ask Ruthann, or if you know the Neumanns*.

I'm sorry if this is hard for the family and close friends. But they do not have to share the actual story, when they know it, with any of us. But -- and I'm obviously speculating -- I also wonder if the bureaucratic response to spend millions of dollars in public resources is an appropriate reaction either.

The Carol and Ian I met, only briefly, seemed very smart and resourceful and nice people. God bless.

*Also, we lost another of our top members of the Gunn class, David Daniels, John and Judy's younger son, in circumstances that -- in a different way are comparable to this case -- also remain a mystery even 30 years later.

11 people like this
Posted by Liz
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2020 at 4:34 pm

I lived for several years in a cabin on Via de la Vista right next to the one where Carol and Ian were vacationing. There are unofficial trails very close to the house that connect with Tomales Bay State Park trails and go to Shell beach and Hearts Desire Beach. I have walked many times off trail picking huckleberries and mushrooms if you lose your way just walk less than a mile and you will come to Sir Frances Drake or Pierce Point road or the dirt road to Shallow beach or Johnston’s trail. The waters of Tomales Bay even on a windy day don’t produce any dangerous waves and the water is not cold. This beach is easily accessible from their vacation cabin and hiking gear, cell phones, wallets are not needed. This is such a beautiful, magical area that they chose to visit I think a few times and I’m sure they loved. I hope they are found soon and my heart goes to their family, friends, and community.

1 person likes this
Posted by Chu
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2020 at 7:22 pm

I doubt they got swept out to sea. The water around there is really calm.

5 people like this
Posted by Stop Speculating
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 21, 2020 at 8:31 pm

Folks. It takes less effort to google the location of "Via De La Vista" or "Inverness Yacht Club in Inverness" to know that it's located in Tomales Bay. Spend a minute more and you will find that "Tomales Bay State Park might be the best spot in the region for water-based activities (the exception is surfing because there are no waves) ... without the fear of sneaker waves and rip currents."

So there are no current or wave to carry them out to the ocean. If you're going to speculate then at least do a minute's worth of research. It's easy to speculate. It's easy to be lazy.

5 people like this
Posted by Long time resident
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 21, 2020 at 9:01 pm

Sharks are known to patrol the waters of Tomales Bay including great whites. While sharks attacks on humans are quite rare, they still occur and it could explain the disappearance of the couple even in calm waters.

As the article states, it appears that they hiked to Shell beach and then something happened to them.

I don't suspect foul play but that something tragic occurred to them while they were in the water.

2 people like this
Posted by Richard Waldinger
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 21, 2020 at 11:56 pm

I see the search is focusing on Tomales Bay, but how would they have gotten into the water.If they were deliberately swimming, what happened to their clothes? It doesn't seem likely that they walked from their cottage to the beach in their bathing suits, it was a chilly Friday evening [or Saturday morning]. And any clothing left on the beach would have been found in the search.
And why do they rule out "foul play"? [Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by McCarthy
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2020 at 8:42 am

Having spent every summer at my grandparents cottage in Inverness I can say that there are no big waves at Shell Beach. I do know that my father and uncle have had several encounters with mountain lions and I used to lie in bed at night and listen to the scream of a mountain lion.

Like this comment
Posted by Question
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2020 at 10:09 am

Are there ANY financial clues like ATM use?

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2020 at 10:28 am

At this stage the likelihood of this being accidental or even deliberate is remote. There would be clues of some type, clothing, shoes, markers of disturbed vegetation along the trails, etc.

I strongly feel that there is more that we, the public, are not being told. Police don't always give away all the information in cases where something suspicious has occurred. There is no mention of house or car keys or whether the rental was found locked or not. These types of information will be known to the authorities but since neither they or the family are mentioning them, then there is obviously more going on than we are being told.

Alien abduction, while extremely unlikely, is of course a fitting explanation to the information. However, the abduction by someone more terrestrial is indeed possible and hopefully this possibility is being looked into with just as much effort as the recovery search.

2 people like this
Posted by TT
a resident of Woodside
on Feb 22, 2020 at 11:00 am

Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by TT
a resident of Woodside
on Feb 22, 2020 at 11:01 am


2 people like this
Posted by resident17
a resident of Monroe Park
on Feb 22, 2020 at 11:14 am

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2020 at 11:37 am

Thank you, resident17, for providing us a news link where we can read the wonderful news!

2 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2020 at 11:59 am

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Longtime resident
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 22, 2020 at 1:13 pm

It's great to hear that they've been found alive and have been taken to a hospital. Hopefully they make a full recovery from any injuries they may have suffered.

2 people like this
Posted by Mistaken For Seals
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 22, 2020 at 2:53 pm

>>> how would they have gotten into the water.If they were deliberately swimming, what happened to their clothes?

^^^^ they could have been wearing wetsuits which sharks often mistake for sea lions/seals.

3 people like this
Posted by Hello .....
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 22, 2020 at 5:22 pm

Yay! The couple has been found alive.

Sorry some of you cannot continue to play part-time detectives on this case.

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