Coast Guard suspends search for two missing crewmembers

Fishing vessels in the area are expected to keep a lookout

Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

ANCHORAGE - The Coast Guard suspended its search Sunday for two crewmembers in the deadly sinking of a fishing vessel that took on water in stormy seas last week near the Aleutian Islands.

Carlos Zabala, 30, of Helena, Mont., and Robert Davis, 49, of Deming, Wash. were among an 11-member crew aboard the 93-foot Katmai when it began taking on water and sank early Tuesday.

The Coast Guard said it suspended the search for the two after conducting an unsuccessful search of 4,871 square miles of ocean.

"While our minds remain on Coast Guard missions, our hearts are with the families during this difficult time," Capt. Mike Inman, chief of response for the 17th Coast Guard District, said in a news release.

Petty Officer Richard Brahm said Sunday if anything turns up in the days to come, the Coast Guard can reopen the search. Fishing vessels in the area are expected to continue to keep a lookout, he said.

The Coast Guard and the Air National Guard conducted the search, using the cutter Acushnet from Ketchikan, MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters, a HC-130 Hercules aircraft and pararescue swimmers. Two Good Samaritan fishing vessels also helped to recover the dead.

The five bodies that were recovered were identified as Joshua Leonguerrero, 19, Spanaway, Wash.; Cedric Smith, 38, Portland, Ore.; Glenn Harper, 35, Portland; Jake Gilman, 22, of Camas, Wash., and Fuli Lemusu, 44, Salem, Ore.

Four crewmembers survived, including Capt. Henry Blake, 40, of Worcester, Mass. The three other survivors were identified as Adam Foster, 23, Shoreline, Wash., and Harold Appling, 30, and Guy Schroeder, 50, both of Anchorage.

The four were rescued from a life raft 17 hours after the fish processing vessel sank in a severe storm. The crewmembers who survived were found wearing survival suits and in a life raft. The five bodies that were recovered were in survival suits but floating in the water.

A three-member investigative panel is expected to hear testimony Monday in Anchorage from the surviving crew members as well representatives of Katmai Fisheries Inc., of Seattle, the boat's owner. The National Transportation Safety Board also is investigating the sinking.

According to the Coast Guard, when problems began the Katmai sent an e-mail to a nearby vessel that said it was taking on water in the rear, where the steering was housed.

All the crew members were able to get into survival suits, according to members of another fishing vessel in the area that received the e-mail.

A survival suit can extend the life of people in cold waters, depending on their physical condition, how panicked they are or whether they are in a group or a life raft. Without a suit, death comes very quickly, sometimes within minutes. With a suit, people can live for several hours when tossed into cold water.

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