Sacramento couple on fishing trip still missing

6:59 PM, Dec 2, 2013   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO - Sacramento County sheriff's searchers on two boats, on riverbanks and a California Highway Patrol aircraft did not turn up any sign Monday of a Sacramento couple missing since Thanksgiving Day in the Sacramento River near Rio Vista. 

Van and Chantra Chanpenxi disappeared after a fishing trip and have not been seen or heard from since. Authorities discovered the couple's boat and truck, both unoccupied. The Coast Guard called off its search Friday morning.

Search parties brought the missing couple's boat to a dock just north of the Rio Vista Bridge after it was found going in circles with no one on board.  It isn't clear where or when the couple got off the boat.

Family members picked up Sunday where the Coast Guard left off as they searched the water and coastline near the last known location of 64-year-old Van and his wife, 51-year-old Chantra.

"They're really good people. This is really bad, and it happened Thanksgiving, too," the couple's son, Jim Chanpensai (family members use multiple spellings of the name) said.

Chanpensai was one of the last people to speak to his parents, who disappeared Thursday sometime after they parked their truck and launched their fishing boat from Hogback Island.

"I talked to my mom around 12:30, noon time," Jim said.

His mother answered his father's phone and explained that he was busy dealing with his fishing gear.

"Since my dad was busy, she told me to call him back maybe at night time after they're done fishing," Chanpensai said.

But a few hours after that phone call, the couple's empty boat was spotted.

"The Coast Guard found his boat was just spinning around the river," the couple's nephew, Joe Chanphenxi said.

Chanphenxi  explained his uncle was a stickler for safety and always insisted that everyone wear life jackets.

"We felt that it could be some type of foul play involved because usually, my aunt all the time she would put on her jacket, and my uncle would really stress on that to everybody that step on his boat," Chanphenxi  said.

"They drowned, or maybe they got kidnapped. Maybe it's just a random act. We don't know. I wish I knew," Chanpensai  said.

The sheriff's department has taken over the investigation and is asking for the public's help. In the meantime, the family is trying to stay hopeful.

"It has been four days already. Myself and my cousin, and all family and friends, we still try to be positive. Hopefully they're still okay," Chanpensai  said.

Family members said they plan to continue their own search in the days ahead until the couple is found.

Searchers with the sheriff's department said they would resume looking for the couple at 8 a.m. Tuesday.


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