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Four dead after boat sinks off Dutch Harbor

Posted: Monday, March 24, 2008

ANCHORAGE - A fishing boat sank off Alaska's Aleutian Islands on Sunday, leaving four crew members including the captain dead and another missing, the Coast Guard said.

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Jim Paulin / The Associated Press
Jim Paulin / The Associated Press

Forty-two of the 47 crew members on board the Seattle-based Alaska Ranger were rescued, but the search continued for the missing person, said Chief Petty Officer Barry Lane.

The 184-foot vessel started taking on water shortly before 3 a.m. after losing control of its rudder 120 miles west of Dutch Harbor, which is on Unalaska Island.

In a statement, the ship's owner, the Fishing Company of Alaska, said it "did not have sufficient information to determine why the vessel foundered."

Seas with up to 8-foot waves and 25-knot winds were reported at the time the ship sank, Lane said. The Coast Guard was investigating the cause of the sinking, he said.

The company identified those killed as ship's captain Eric Peter Jacobsen, chief engineer Daniel Cook, mate David Silveira and crewman Byron Carrillo.

"They were incredibly brave, hard working men. Our hearts are broken," the company said. The men's ages and hometowns were not released.

State environmental regulators were notified that the ship was carrying 145,000 gallons of diesel when it sank in deep seas, according to Leslie Pearson, emergency response manager for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

An oil sheen covered an area of a quarter mile by a half mile, Coast Guard spokesman Ray Dwyer said. Because of the strong winds, however, any cleanup effort is unlikely, although those conditions would disperse a spill much more quickly than calm weather, Pearson said.

Some of those on board the Alaska Ranger were heading to Dutch Harbor in the sunken vessel's sister ship, the Alaska Warrior, with arrival expected sometime close to early Monday. The vessel took part in the rescue operation along with two Coast Guard helicopters that were used to pluck crew members from life rafts, Lane said.

Other survivors were on board the Coast Guard cutter Munro, which remained at the scene to search for the missing crew member. A C-130 also remained to help search for the missing crew member, whose name was not released.

Coast Guard Lt. Eric Eggan said it was unknown how or when the four died.

Chuck Harvey, a harbor officer on duty in Dutch Harbor, said Coast Guard officials notified him they were on their way. The Coast Guard also told harbor officials to have an ambulance ready, but didn't specify the degree or nature of any injuries, Harvey said.

"I figure there's quite a bit of hypothermia going on," he said.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Levi Read said the Fishing Company of Alaska sent an insurance adjuster to Dutch Harbor, who was expected to arrive Sunday afternoon.

In December, an engine fire damaged another of the company's ships, the Alaska Patriot, while it was docked near Dutch Harbor. No one was injured in the blaze.

Roger Deffendall, fire captain with the Unalaska Department of Public Safety, told radio station KIAL that a crew member extinguished the worst of the fire before he and the rest of the crew fled the trawler.

The Fishing Company of Alaska, the owner of a catcher-processor ship it managed and the ship's captains were fined a combined $254,500 in 2006. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service said the company - as well as the ship's owner, Alaska Juris Inc., and its captains - committed numerous violations, such as tampering with or destroying equipment used by industry observers and failing to provide observers a safe work area.

Federal officials said the case stemmed from a multiyear investigation that documented a range of federal violations, including keeping inaccurate information on required reports and fishing contrary to seasonal closures.

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Associated Press writer Elizabeth M. Gillespie in Seattle contributed to this report.



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