Deckhand, Juan Martinez died at sea when he went overboard while working aboard the 54-foot tuna fishing vessel Summer Breeze. The vessel owned by Pat Patana was home ported in Chinook Washington. Martinez was 38 years old and is survived by his partner of 20 years, Lourdes Salvador and his two children.
The tragic incident happened approximately 100 miles west of Ilwaco. First reports indicate Patana reported he thought Martinez slipped and fell overboard while trying to untangle fishing lines. Patana told reporters that he tried to rescue Martinez but was unable to pull Martinez back on board the fishing boat. There were no nearby fishing vessels in the area to help Patana rescue Martinez.
Patana told local newspaper reporters that Martinez was an excellent employee with a strong work ethic. Patana is organizing a November 11th fundraiser to benefit Martinez family.
It is unknown whether or not the Summer Breeze was insured to provide for benefits in the event of a crewman’s death. Unfortunately, many vessels on the Washington and Oregon Coast do not carry maritime insurance necessary to pay the benefits required by Federal law in the case of death and serious injury to fishing deckhands and crewmen. Because Washington Workers Compensation laws do not provide benefits to most injured fishermen, families of deceased crewmen must rely upon benefits provided under Federal Maritime law. Owners and crewmen should all be aware of the laws relating to injury and death to crewmen including claims for benefits under the Jones Act and the Death On the High Seas Act.
Full details about how the Martinez’ death happened are not currently available. It is unknown whether or not Martinez was wearing a safety work vest to keep him afloat. The United States Coast Guard indicated the accident was under investigation. Owners and operators of fishing vessels are required to file Marine Casualty Incident Reports in cases involving deaths and serious injury of crewmen.
Fishing vessels like the Summer Breeze are required to carry basic safety equipment and regularly drill and practice procedures for rescuing crewmen who are involved in a man overboard incident.