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An EPIRB signal alerted the Coast Guard on Saturday that the Alaska fishing vessel Destination may be in trouble near St. George Island. The emergency signal came from a location about two miles northwest of St. George Island, a port the Destination frequently visited. Coast Guard vessels and helicopters searched the area locating a debris field, oil sheen, buoys, tarps, life ring and the EPIRB. Searchers were unable to locate any sign of the missing crewman or their vessel.  Weather on the scene was reported to be 30-mile per-hour winds with seas of 5-8 feet, and temperature of 20 degrees. The Coast Guard is continuing its search and the Coast Guard cutter Morgenthau was anticipated to arrive in the search area Sunday morning.

The Destination is a 98-foot vessel home based in Seattle. Little details are now available about the event. The event may have happened quickly before the crew of the Destination was able to get off a May Day message and launch their survival rafts. It is unknown whether or not freezing spray may have contributed to the incident.  Icing conditions if they existed in the area could cause a vessel to suddenly lose stability.  Further information about the weather conditions at the time of the emergency signal is currently unavailable.

This post will be updated as more information becomes available.

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Two major fishing companies based in Seattle have purchased three Alaska factory trawlers and their quota share from the Fishing Company of Alaska (FCA). The sale was announced on Friday. The purchase price was not disclosed. Two Seattle based companies, O’Hara Corporation and Ocean Peace, were involved in the purchase.

A fleet of six Bering Sea fishing vessels was once owned by FCA. One of FCA’s vessels, the Alaska Ranger, sank in 2007. Five crew were tragically killed in the sinking and the remaining 42 crewmen escaped death following a miraculous rescue effort by the Coast Guard. As a result of the Alaska Ranger sinking, lawsuits were filed against FCA for the maritime wrongful deaths and personal injuries of the crew under the Jones Act. Those cases were settled out of Court. Attorney James Beard represented many of the crewmen and their families. In 2016 a second vessel owned by FCA, the Alaska Juris, sank. No deaths occurred in that sinking, but the sinking of the Alaska Juris remains under investigation by the United States Coast Guard.

O’ Hara Corporation has over a hundred year history in the commercial fishing industry. They own 12 scallop boats based in Maine. O’Hara Corporation became involved in the Alaska ground fish trawling industry in the early 1990’s. Prior to their most recent purchase from FCA, O’Hara owed three Alaska factory trawlers, The F/T Constellation, F/T Defender, and F/T Enterprise. A fourth vessel, the F/T Araho is under construction. O’Hara claims that the F/T Araho will be the most technologically advanced catcher processor in the Alaska fleet. O’ Hara has indicated they intend to continue to fish the vessel it purchased from FCA and will make modifications and repairs of the aging vessels that will bring the vessels up to date with modern fishing and safety standards.

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January 7, 2017 – Five crewmen were saved when the F/V Star King sank near the Columbia River bar during the first week of the West Coast crab season. The captain of the Star King issued an emergency may day call just after 4:30 A.M. Saturday morning reporting that the vessel was taking on water and listing to the starboard. The crew of the vessel were able to done survival suits and abandoned ship before the Star King capsized and sank just minutes later.  The Sea Ballad another fishing vessel working in the area was able to rescue all five of the crewman from the water. The crew of the Star King was transferred to a motor life boat from Cape Disappointment and taken to shore in Ilwaco. Information about any injuries to the crew is not currently available. Coast Guard records indicate that the 55 foot Star King is owned by Kindred Fisheries Inc.

The fishing strike over the price of dungeness was crab had been settled ($ 2.875 per pound) and the fleet were to begin setting crab pots at 8:00 A. M. on Saturday. In many past cases overloading or improper loading of crab boats at the start of fishing seasons have lead to vessels sinking. For the safety of the crew of crab fishing vessels, detailed stability analysis should be performed on each crab boat to establish safe loading limits. Information about how the Star King was loaded was not reported or available at this time. Quick action by the crew in getting into their survival suits before the Star King sank undoubtedly saved these crewman’s lives. Without survival suits and flotation devices the survival time for a crewman in the winter ocean waters off the coast of Washington and Oregon can be just minutes depending on sea conditions.

In a second incident four miles off the coast of Long Beach, the Coast Guard escorted the crew of the fishing vessel Tracer back to shore on Sunday. The crew called for help after reporting they were taking on water with loss of engine power. With the assistance of pumps provided by the Coast Guard the Tracer was able to regain power and control the flooding. Weather conditions were reported as 5 foot swells with 30 mile per hour winds.

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A crewman has been airlifted from a fishing vessel 20 miles off the Oregon Coast. The crewman was working aboard the fishing vessel Leann when he reportedly fell suffering a head injury. Initial VHF radio communications with the coast guard were incomplete and broken up. The Coast Guard utilized telephone communications to reach the master of the Leann and make arrangements for an emergency airlift. The 50-year-old injured crewman was reportedly unconscious following the fall and became combative as he regained unconscious. Closed head injury victims who suffer brain injuries frequently exhibit these types of symptoms. It is important to get immediate emergency medical care for any crewman suspected of suffering a closed head injury aboard a fishing vessel.

A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Sector North Bend safely transported the 50-year-old man to medical personnel at Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay.   Weather conditions at the scene of the fishing accident were reported to be calm seas with light winds and clear visibility.

The circumstances of the crewman’s fall aboard the Leann are unknown at this time. All injury accidents involving fisherman require that a Coast Guard accident form “2692” be filed with the Coast Guard indicating how the accident occurred and making suggests for how such accidents can be prevented in the future. Slip and fall accidents aboard fishing vessels remain one of the most frequent causes of commercial fisherman injuries. To be a seaworthy a vessel proper precautions must be taken to ensure that a crewman at all times has a safe place to work.

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The Alaska fishing vessel Exito has reportedly sank 14 miles Northeast of Dutch Harbor.  Three crewman have been rescued and the search continues for two missing crewmen.   The Exito’s owner called the Coast Guard at 9:30 Tuesday night reporting the vessel was taking on water and the crew was preparing to abandon ship.  A near by vessel Afognac Strait was able to locate and rescue three of the Exito’s crew.   The search continues the two  missing crew.  One of the missing crewmen was last seen in a survival suit preparing to abandon ship.

Details about the search for the missing crewman are not available at this time.  Details about the cause of the sinking are also unavailable. New reports indicate the Exit0 was carrying cargo for Trident Seafoods from Dutch Harbor to Akutan. The cargo included fifty five gallon drums and x-ray equipment.   Downflooding of fishing vessel’s like the Exito can quickly cause a sinking.  The Exito is a 117 foot steel hulled vessel built in 1956.  Coast Guard records indicate the vessel is home ported in Dutch Harbor, but the vessel is a familiar presence in Seattle.  The vessel is registered as being owned by Aleautian Endeavor LLC.

Weather conditions at the time of the incident were reported to be 8 foot seas with winds around 30 miles per hour.

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Working in Alaska as a commercial fisherman is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. The first available medical treatment for many injured Alaska fishermen is the Iliuliuk medical clinic in Dutch Harbor Alaska. The clinic sees a wide range of injuries, such as amputations, crush injuries, broken bones, injured necks and backs, and infections. Unfortunately, the clinic in Dutch Harbor is so remote that it can provide only limited medical services to the fishing communities. Serious injuries must be medevacked to Anchorage for medical treatment. However, getting good early care for an injury is critical to a crewman’s having the best recovery possible.

Providence Hospital and Iliuluk Clinic have entered into a unique partnership that will utilize tele-communications via satellite for medical specialist in Anchorage to help and assist in evaluating the patients at the clinic in Dutch Harbor. Real time cameras and communications will allow medical specialists in Anchorage to speak directly with the patient about their injuries and symptoms. The doctor and the patient will reportedly be able to see each other face to face and will not have to rely upon emails or telephone communications with medics. The crews on Alaskan fishing vessels can come from diverse backgrounds and many times English is a second language for the injured crewman. The telecommunications system with Providence will allow the patients at the Iliuliuk clinic in Dutch Harbor to draw upon all the resources of Providence Hospital in Anchorage.

Dutch Harbor is one the United States leading commercial fishing ports. It is the central hub and port for the Bering Sea crab fishing fleet, the Bering Sea Pollock factory trawlers, and the ground fish fleet. The Providence Hospital and Dutch Harbor partnership will mean better outcomes for many injured fishermen working in Alaska.

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October 7, 2016

The Coast Guard has rescued five commercial fishermen from a sinking fish boat approximately 19 miles southwest of Gray Harbor, Washington. The crew of the fishing vessel Taplow radioed the Coast Guard that they were taking on water, their engine room was half-flooded and their pumps had stopped working. The crew was directed to activate their EPIRB, and the Coast Guard dispatched helicopters and motor lifeboats to aid in the rescue of the fishermen.   The vessel continued to list and take on water despite pumps delivered by the Coast Guard, and the crew was advised to abandon ship. The vessel has reportedly sunk in 300 feet of water. The crew was brought to shore at Grays Harbor. No injuries were reported in the incident. Initial investigation shows that the Taplow is a 56-foot fishing vessel originally built in 1945 in the Sterling shipyards in Vancouver.

Friday, the Coast Guard rescued four other crewmen from sailing vessels off the Washington Coast.   Two crewmen from the 45-foot sail boat Soteria were forced to abandon ship in 20-foot seas and 50 MPH winds.   Remarkably, this vessel is reported to not have had survival suits on board, and the survival suits had to be provided by the Coast Guard before the crew could abandon ship and be safely rescued.   In a separate incident 31 miles offshore from Willapa Bay, a 39-foot sailboat lost its mast in heavy weather. Rescue swimmers from the motor life rescued the operator of the vessel from the water.

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On Sunday, two boaters have been rescued from the surf after their vessel capsized near Nehalem Bay, Oregon.   The Coast Guard first received a call for help on VHF Channel twenty-two and called upon a 47-foot motor lifeboat already underway to search the area. The Coast Guard received further information from witnesses indicating sighting a capsized vessel near the mouth of the Nehalem River. The Coast Guard located the two boaters in the surf zone and as they approached to make the rescue report that both boaters went under the water surface several times. The accident happed around 7:30 A.M., the air and water temperature were reported as 48 and 59 degrees. Exposure to cold water can quickly lead to hypothermia in accidents such as this. The Coast Guard indicates that wearing life jackets was instrumental in being able to survive the incident.

In other Coast Guard news, the search for a missing Washington boater has been suspended.   52-year-old Brian Schmitz’ 16-foot boat was spotted unmanned and adrift on the Columbia River near Portland on Saturday. An extensive air and water search for Schmitz failed to locate any signs of the man. The Coast Guard indicates there was evidence that the man had likely had fallen overboard. It is unknown weather Schmitz was wearing a personal floatation device.

In other regional news, search was suspended Friday for an Alaska cruise ship passenger missing from the 965 foot Norwegian Pearl. Thursday an unidentified 24-year-old woman passenger was reported missing from the cruise ship. Search of the vessel and review of videotapes from the cruise ship reveal the woman had gone overboard while the vessel was cruising in Lynn Canal. The circumstances of how the woman had gone overboard were not revealed, but the Coast Guard statement indicated the fall overboard was not “suspicious”. The cruise ship was on an eight-day cruise from Seattle to Glacier Bay.

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The fishing vessel Sara Jo capsized and sank on January 26, 2016 while crossing Oregon’s treacherous Coos Bay bar. The vessel reportedly lost power as it was crossing the bar resulting in loss of steerage which lead to flooding of the vessel in the high seas. The Captain issued a mayday and the three crewman aboard the vessel were able to get into survival suits before abandoning the Sara Jo.

Raymond Cardosa died in the accident, and crewman David Schellong and captain David Williams narrowly escaped death. Williams and Schellong were rescued from the water by Coast Guard rescue boats. A week prior to the Sara Jo’s sinking the crab boat Eagle Three also sank while trying to cross the bar. Three crewmen died in the sinking of the Eagle Three.

On July 26, 2016, the owner of the Sara Jo filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court located in Portland Oregon, Case No. 3:16-CV-01512. The lawsuit commonly referred to as a Petition for Limitation of or Exoneration from Liability seeks to prohibit the family of Cardosa and surviving crew of the vessel from holding the owner responsible for Cardosa’s death and the crew’s injuries.

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The 77 foot commercial fishing vessel Lady Lillian sank while docked in Westport . The cause of the sinking is unknown and it is not known if any crewmen were aboard the vessel at the time of the sinking. The Coast Guard is working together with the Washington State Department of ecology to minimize the environmental damage caused by the vessel sinking. Oil spill containment booms have been placed around the sunken vessel and Global Diving and Salvage has been contacted to empty the vessel’s fuel and oil tanks . The vessel was reported to have approximately a 1,000 gallons of fuel on board. The Lady Lillian was discovered submerged at its berth early Monday morning.

Search of the Coast Guard Vessel Documentation Center records discloses that a 77 foot fishing named Lady Lillian, number 574820, was built in 1976 and is registered as being owned by Nhan Thanh Nguyen of Salem, Oregon. The steel hulled vessel was built in 1976 with a listed hailing port of Portland, Oregon.

A vessel which sinks while moored to the dock certainly raises questions about the general maintenance and repair of the vessel and its overall seaworthiness. We can be thankful that this vessel did not sink while working fishing at sea putting the captain and crew of risk of injury or death.