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A 25-year-old crewman, Grant Hildreth has been reported missing after falling overboard from the F/V CAPE GRIEG.  The tragic accident happened on Thursday in Ugashik Bay, Alaska.  Reports indicate the crew of the Cape Grieg tried to save Hildreth by throwing him a flotation device but that Hildreth went under the water and could not be found.   The cause of the accident is unknown at this time and is under investigation.  Hildreth was not wearing a personal flotation device.  Weather at the time of incident was reported to be relatively mild with a strong incoming tide.  The Cape Greig is a 175 foot long fish processing vessel owned by F/V BEAGLE LLC and is home ported in Seattle Washington.

Few accidents at sea are not preventable if proper training and safety procedures are followed.  It is common safety practice aboard Alaska fishing vessel for crewmen working on the deck of a vessel to wear personal flotation work vests.  These vests can save lives, and vessel owners must ensure that safety rules requiring wearing safety vests are enforced.  Fishing vessel safety regulations require fishing boat crews to drill and practice in rescue procedures in the event of a man overboard situation. The maritime lawyers at Johnson Beard & Trueb PC represent the families of crewmen who have been injured or killed working at sea; they have offices located in Anchorage and Seattle.

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Reports have now confirmed Kevin Soule has died in a tragic crab fishing accident on Willapa Bay.  Soule was reported missing by his wife, Heather, on May 19thwhen he did not return home from crab fishing as scheduled. Soule was reportedly fishing alone aboard the 40-foot crab boat KELLI J.  An extensive search lead to the discovery of the sunken vessel on Friday.  The sunken boat was discovered by Sherriff’s personnel in approximately 40 feet of water three miles northwest of Oysterville. Soule body was discovered by divers working to salvage the sunken KELLI J.

The circumstances and cause of the sinking of the KELLI J are unknown.  The sunken vessel was located in an area of Soule’s crab pots and buoys.  Some local fishermen have speculated the vessel possibly sank as a result of winching up on a stuck crab pot. The accident occurred as the dungeness fishing season was winding to a close in Willapa Bay.

The Nahcotta based KELLI J was owned by Shoalwater Seafoods LLC.  Reports indicate that the vessel was equipped with an EPIRB, however, the electronic locating device did not activate.  The accident has struck a terrible blow to Soule’s wife and two young daughters.

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Four crewmen were rescued from a life raft Sunday night after the F/V MT Tamgas capsized 12 miles off the Oregon Coast.  The captain of the MT Tamgas radio issued a mayday call reporting his vessel was capsizing and the four crewmen were abandoning ship into the vessel’s life raft. A Coast Guard helicopter rescued the crewmen and transported the crew to Tillamook Bay for emergency medical assessment.  One of the crewmen was reported to be suffering from symptoms of hypothermia. The facts and circumstances of the capsizing are unknown at this time.   Vessel documentation indicates the 54-foot long MT Tamgas is a steel hulled vessel built in 1966 and owned by Travenshek Fisheries.  The vessel is home ported in Warrenton, Oregon.

The commercial fishing fleet in Washington and Oregon has recently experienced an increasing number of fishing vessel sinkings. Fortunately, the Coast Guard has been there to rescue many of the crews of these vessels.  However, vessel safety starts with a properly maintained vessel, and a vessel fully equipped with safety equipment, and a properly trained crew. We are thankful the crew of MT Tamgas was rescued from a very dangerous situation.

Johnson Beard & Trueb PC are maritime lawyers who represent fishermen injured fishing in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.  Their experience includes handling commercial vessel sinking cases such as the Aleutian Enterprise, Alaska Ranger, Arctic Rose, Lady Cecelia,  Sara Jo, Nesika and many others.

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A crewman was discovered missing and presumed overboard off a 587-foot oil tanker near Cold Bay, Alaska.   The 23-year-old crewman was reported to have fallen overboard off the M/V CHALLENGE PRELUDE, a Hong Kong registered vessel bound for Anchorage. On Sunday, after discovering the missing crewman the vessel reversed course along its original track in attempts to locate the missing crewman. Coast Guard aerial search for the missing man was to resume today. Mild weather was reported in the area with winds of 9 mph and seas of three feet. Water temperature was estimated at 39 degrees. The circumstances of how the man fell over board are unknown. It is also unknown whether or not he was wearing a work floatation type vest.

In other Alaska fishing news on Friday the Coast Guard medevac’d a 44-year-old man from the F/V SAINTE PETER. The injured crewman was reported unconscious and unresponsive by the vessel Captain. A Coast Guard helicopter hoisted the man from the vessel and transported him 60 miles to Dutch Harbor for medical assessment. The Coast Guard stated: “Saving lives is one of our missions,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Trevor Frommherz, District 17 command center search and rescue controller. “The Coast Guard is on call 24 hour a day, seven days a week. We have assets and personnel available to assist in all weather conditions and in any type of situation, as we are always ready.”

The on call Coast Guard flight surgeon is valuable for all fishing vessels working in Alaska. The Coast Guard may be contacted for medical advise about how to treat an injured or ill crewman and may help access the need to emergency medical evaluation. Early treatment for injured or ill crewman can be the difference between life and death. Don’t put fishing profits over a crewman’s safety, get a seriously injured or ill crewman to shore for treatment as soon as possible.

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The Alaska Ranger sank in the Bering Sea on March 23, 2008 resulting in one of the Coast Guard’s most extensive investigations into the cause of a sinking of a commercial fishing vessel. Owned by the Fishing Company of Alaska the Alaska Ranger was a 185-foot long catcher processor and carried a crew of 47 fishermen. Five crewmen lost their lives when the vessel sank, and many of the 42 surviving crewmen spent hours in the pitch black freezing water before being rescued in one of the Coast Guard’s most heroic efforts.

The Coast Guard and National Transportation held public Coast Guard Casualty hearings in an attempt to determine the cause of the Alaska Ranger’s sinking. Multiple expert and witnesses testified at the hearing, including Rodney Lundy, the vessel’s assistant engineer. Lundy, a critical witness, was the assistant engineer on watch at the time the vessel began to take on flooding in its engine room.

The Seattle Times has extensively covered the cause and circumstances surrounding the Alaska Ranger sinking. The Times is now reporting on the ten-year anniversary of the vessel sinking that Lundy is now disclosing new critical information that was withheld from his testimony during the hearings in 2008. The Seattle Times reports that Lundy now claims he complained to the Alaska Ranger’s Japanese fish master about nets being stacked on deck around the engine room vents. Lundy reportedly claims that as the vessel sank the nets stacked around the starboard engineer room vent prevented him from closing the vent and allowing seawater to down flood directly into the engine room. According to the Seattle Times report: Lundy says two Fishing Company of Alaska officials, at different times, told him to keep quiet about the problems he had trying to close the vent. The officials identified by Lundy were unavailable to provide comment to the Seattle Times reporter

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Fishermen Finest choose to build their new 265-foot catcher processor in local American Shipyard, Dakota Creek. The 265-foot vessel carried a price tag of 75 million dollars and the vessel was the newest and largest catcher processor to be built in the United States in over 30 years. Fishermen’s Finest is a local Kirkland based company, which employs hundreds of crewmen to work on their vessels as fish processors in Alaska. The construction of the vessel meant hundreds of jobs for local shipyard workers. Building the F/V American Finest in the United States was a feel good story about supporting American shipbuilding and the American fisheries.

But there is now a 75 million dollar problem caused by Dakota Creek mistakenly using too much foreign steel in construction of the vessel. Federal Regulations for new vessels constructed to fish in United State waters only allow for 1.5 percent of the vessel’s weight to be made from foreign steel. Dakota Creek made a mistake and the 265-foot F/V America Finest contains an estimated ten percent of foreign steel most of which is from Holland. The vessel now sits unfinished and the owners are reportedly preparing to put the vessel up for sale to foreign interest that would be able to use the vessel in waters not under the jurisdiction of the United States.

Fishermen’s Finest and Dakota Creek sought a legislative fix to the problem of having too much foreign steel in the vessel. Other fishing companies opposed a waiver that would allow the vessel to fish. Washington State Senator Cantwell and Alaska State Senator Sullivan have been negotiating over the terms of a compromise to allow the vessel to enter the American fishery. A waiver to allow the American Finest to fish in United States water failed to make it into the 1.3 million dollar spending bill signed President Trump on Friday. Although there is still hope for a regulatory exemption to be passed, such a fix is becoming increasingly doubtful.

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February 21, 2018

A Coast Guard helicopter stationed at Cold Bay has airlifted a crewman from the Alaska fishing vessel Golden Alaska. The incident happened Tuesday about 60 miles northeast of Cold Bay.

The crewman was reported to have stroke symptoms. The Golden Alaska is a 307-foot Alaska fishing processing vessel owned by Golden Alaska Seafoods. The vessel works together with six catcher boats under the mother ship concept. The catcher boats catch the fish and deliver the fish to the Golden Alaska where the fish are processed at sea by crewmen aboard the vessel.

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The Coast Guard airlifted an unconscious crewman from the Alaska fishing vessel Island Enterprise on Friday.   The 57-year-old man was reportedly found unconscious in the vessel’s freezer hold. The 300-foot-long catcher processor vessel is owned by Trident Seafoods. The vessel was fishing approximately 57 miles northeast from Cold Bay. Weather conditions were reported to be 16 mph winds with eight-foot seas.

The Coast Guard was contacted by Health Force Partners who assisted in coordinating the medevac of the crewman. Health Force Partners is an emergency medical service utilized by many Alaska commercial fishing vessels. In this case after being contacted by Health Force Partners the Coast Guard Flight surgeon recommended immediate evacuation of the crewman from the vessel.   A helicopter pre-staged at Cold Bay was dispatched to rescue the man from the vessel. The crewman was returned to Cold Bay where a Guardian Flight Service crew was waiting to transfer the man to Anchorage for further medical care. The details of this particular accident aboard the Island Enterprise are currently unknown.

Injury accidents frequently occur in the freezer holds of factory trawlers. Injuries may involve falling fifty-pound bags or frozen boxes, conveyor belt injuries, lifting accidents, and slip and falls. In cases involving head injuries or an unconscious crewman, the crewman should immediately be accessed by qualified medical personnel to determine the extent of the injury.

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A worker suffered serious injuries aboard the Ergina Luck early Monday Morning. The Ergina Luck is a 750-foot Liberia flagged bulk carrier vessel and was anchored near Astoria, Oregon. The Coast Guard was contacted on Monday by the agent for the ship who reported the man had fallen in the vessel’s bilge and had injury his back and both legs. The injured crewman was reportedly aboard the vessel to install a recirculation system. The injured worker was reportedly employed by Degesch America, based in Portland.   The rescue team reportedly carried the man on a stretcher up three flights of stairs before lowering him to a motor lifeboat for transfer to shore. The facts and circumstances of the injury are under investigation. The outcome of the man’s injuries are currently unknown.

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The Coast Guard has medical evacuated a crewman from the fishing vessel Bering Hunter. The vessel was located approximately 60 miles south-west of Cold Bay. Reports indicate that the crewman fell and suffered a head injury. The Captain of the vessel requested a medical evacuation and following consultation with the flight surgeon the injured crewman was airlifted from the vessel by Jayhawk helicopter.   The Coast Guard, by advance placement of the helicopter in Cold Bay, are able to eliminate hours of flight time in emergency situation such as this. Prompt evacuation of crewmen who have suffered head injuries is important to the crewman’s safety. When in doubt call the Coast Guard who can provide a consultation with a flight surgeon about medical evacuation. Flight surgeons are on duty 24 hours a day to respond to emergencies.   No details about the cause of the accident were provided. Falls aboard fishing vessels at sea frequently cause crewman injuries. Working in heavy weather increases the risk of injury.