Marine Board to investigate deadly fishing boat sinking

Coast Guard continues to search for two missing crewmen in Aleutians

Posted: Sunday, October 26, 2008

ANCHORAGE - Ron Martindale already knew his stepson was missing in the western Aleutians when he got the worst call a parent could get: The 22-year-old was among five crew members killed in the sinking of a commercial fishing boat.

"It was like somebody ripped my heart out," Martindale said Friday, a day after learning Jake Gilman's body had been recovered in Amchitka Pass.

Four members of the 11-member crew aboard the 93-foot Katmai survived. They were rescued from a life raft 17 hours after the fish processing vessel sank early Wednesday in a severe storm born out of a typhoon near Japan. The Coast Guard continued to search for two missing crewmen in calmer weather Friday.

Gilman, of Camas, Wash., was new to commercial fishing and set off in late September for his first-ever excursion, Martindale said. It was just like his stepson to try something novel, given his love of adventure and the outdoors, a personality that was "kind of a light," said the father.

Martindale also lives in Camas, but works at Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oil field. That's where he got the call that his stepson was dead.

Now he is haunted by their last conversation he had with his stepson just before Gilman left home for his new job.

"I was mad at him. That's really the hardest thing," Martindale said. He's since forgotten what he was mad about. What lingers now is that he never got to make amends. "That's what hurts."

The others who died were Joshua Leonguerrero, 19, Spanaway, Wash.; Cedric Smith, 38, Portland, Ore.; Glenn Harper, 35, Portland, and Fuli Lemusu, 44, Salem, Ore.

The Coast Guard said Friday it still hopes to find the two missing crew members alive and is not ready to presume them dead. The missing have been identified as Carlos Zabala, 30, of Helena, Mont., and Robert Davis, 49, of Deming, Wash.

"Right now, we're still in full search mode," said Capt. Mark Hamilton.

Some of the Coast Guard and Alaska Air National Guard members involved in the search joined Hamilton Friday at a press conference in Anchorage. Among them was Petty Officer Dave Coats, a rescue swimmer who helped pluck the survivors from the raft.

Setting out in a rescue helicopter, the 22-year veteran thought it would be more of a body recovery mission than a rescue. Then the crew spotted the survivors - Capt. Henry Blake, 40, of Worcester, Mass., and crew members Adam Foster, 23, Shoreline, Wash., and Harold Appling, 30, and Guy Schroeder, 50, both of Anchorage.

A half hour later, all four were safely in the helicopter, cold and tossed about. But they were in good enough condition for the rescue crew to continue searching.

Coats said the raft and survival suits the men were wearing were factors in keeping them alive. But he also believes their mindset played a role.

"In my opinion, it was their will to survive," he said.

A marine board will be established to investigate the sinking, according to Hamilton. The three-member panel will convene as early as this weekend to begin taking testimony on the sinking.

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