Woman seeks help after husband's search called off

Two disappeared while longlining near Kake

Posted: Tuesday, March 14, 2006

While frantically calling state and federal officials for help in resuming a search for her missing husband, Jennifer Nebert said she received a call from the Coast Guard Monday to tell her the search would remain suspended.

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"I'm just at a loss," she said. "It's really hard on the kids. I'm trying to keep them hopeful." She said she believes her husband, commercial fisherman Rick Nebert, is in the wilderness near the southern tip of Admiralty Island, and needs to be found as soon as possible.

Nebert's 34-foot gillnetter on Friday called in a mayday from off the island's southern tip, and has not been seen since. Jennifer Nebert said her husband had been longlining for cod near Kake and was headed to Sitka to unload his catch.

"It is devastating," said teacher Mary McBride, who has the Nebert's son, Derick, in her kindergarten class at Riverbend Elementary School. Ericka Nebert, Derick's sister, is a year younger and attends preschool at Riverbend. "Right now we're organizing to help. (Rick Nerbert) is the family's sole provider, and she's a stay-at-home mom. There's no insurance (on the boat), no life insurance."

The Coast Guard issued a statement Monday afternoon saying Marine Safety Office staff in Juneau is investigating the disappearance of the fishing vessel Slayer, which issued a brief mayday call at 6:45 a.m. Friday while underway in Chatham Strait near Point Gardner on Admiralty Island. Rick Nebert, 42, and Matthew Young, an 18-year-old Sitka resident, were aboard.

How to help

People with donations for the Nebert family or offering to provide other types of assistance can call Mary McBride at 789-3624.

One of the Slayer's three survival suits was found in the area.

"After three days of intense searching, the Coast Guard suspended the active search" at 7:50 p.m. Sunday, according to the agency's statement. Coast Guard and Civil Air Patrol crews logged 60 hours of flight time during the three days, it added.

The Coast Guard Cutter Anacapa and assisting private vessels searched 918 miles of shoreline and 735 miles of open water repeatedly, the statement continued. A Sitka Mountain Rescue ground-search team searched 412 miles north of where the vessel was believed to have gone down and found no sign of survivors having made it ashore.

On-scene conditions included wind speeds of 40 to 46 mph, seas swelling to 10 to 12 feet and water temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the official statement.

The harsh elements are all the more reason to continue the search, Jennifer Nebert said. She has seen her husband brave the elements, but he has made his living on a freezing fishing boat. She held up a picture of a boat covered with ice.

"He fished in freezing spray for cod for people to consume," she said.

Monday she talked to people in the offices of Gov. Frank Murkowski and U.S. Sens. Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski, she said. She also knows others have been asking questions about the search being canceled.

Saturday, Jennifer Nebert flew over the area in a chartered helicopter, something she couldn't afford, she said, but the pilot only charged her for the fuel.

McBride said staffers at the school and parents of students have come together to support the Neberts. They are working to set up a bank account and are looking at a fundraiser.

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