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BOSTON - The head of a firm that performed engineering work on a fishing trawler that sank in the Bering Sea, killing five crew members, told investigators Wednesday that the Alaska Ranger had a design feature that should have protected the vessel in case its hull punctured.
The Seattle-based ship went down March 23 while it was on its way to mackerel grounds in the Bering Sea, taking five lives. The Coast Guard and a nearby ship rescued 42 crew members.
Herbert Roeser told a federal panel he received a 3 a.m. phone call from the ship's owner as the imperiled vessel was taking on water in the rudder room, which Roeser called an unlikely location.
"It's very surprising the water came in that way, because it has double-wall construction in that area," said Roeser, the owner of Seattle-based Trans Marine Propulsion Systems Inc., which upgraded systems on the Alaska Ranger in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including the addition of a backup hull wall.
Roeser called the vessel "very safe," testifying he was unaware of any design shortcomings or problems turning up in inspections to indicate how water reached the rudder room.
Roeser testified in a Boston session focusing on the vessel's design before a five-member panel called by the Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board.