An American who has a soccer ball that floated across the Pacific Ocean to Alaska after being swept away from the Tohoku region during the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami says he was recently relieved to learn that the ball's owner survived.

David Baxter, a 51-year-old radar station technician who is looking after the ball, which was found by a colleague, spoke of his joy in a telephone interview Saturday after the ball was confirmed to belong to 7-year-old Kazuki Yamakawa of Rifu, Miyagi Prefecture. Miyagi was one of the prefectures hardest hit by the tsunami. "This is great news! I am so relieved and happy he is OK," Baxter said.

His colleague found the ball March 3 while he and Baxter were walking along a beach on Middleton Island in Alaska, where Baxter works.

Since Baxter has been stumbling upon other sports balls lost by the Japanese, his colleague asked him to see if he could trace the owner of the most recent find.