The U.S. Coast Guard will convene a Marine Board of Investigation to look into the Feb. 11 loss of the 98-foot crabber Destination and six crew members, the agency announced Friday.
The National Transportation Safety Board will conduct a parallel investigation with the Coast Guard, but will produce an independent report with its own findings.
Fellow Bering Sea crabbers have set up a Facebook page to publicize a memorial fund for the missing Destination crew members. The page identifies the six men as Capt. Jeff Hathaway; Larry O'Grady, Raymond Vincler, Darrik Seibold, Charles G. Jones and Kai Hamik.
Among those working to publicize the fund is Capt. Casey McManus of the Cornelia Marie, a skipper once featured on the Discovery Channel’s reality show about Bering Sea crabbing, “Deadliest Catch.”
On a recent trip back to Dutch Harbor for supplies, the Alaska Dispatch News reported that McManus and his crew cast yellow roses over the side of their vessel near where the Destination went missing about two miles northwest of St. George Island, Alaska.
"It was kind of a weird thing, but it helped me feel a little closure about the whole deal, and we're concentrating now on how to support our lost brothers, families and their kids,” McManus told the ADN.
All reports note that the Destination was well-maintained, and most interviewees said they were shocked the boat had been compromised in any way. Some have speculated that extreme icing conditions may have caused the boat to roll, not giving the crew enough time to issue a mayday call.
Coast Guard watchstanders in Juneau received an electronic position indicating radio beacon alert Feb. 11 and launched aircraft crews in response. The aircrews located a debris field in the general area of the EPIRB alert. Debris included the transmitting EPIRB, a life ring from the Destination, buoys, tarps and an oil sheen. The search for the vessel was suspended on Feb. 13 after a three-day search.
A Marine Board of Investigation is the Coast Guard’s highest level of inquiry, usually reserved for serious maritime incidents. Witnesses are called to testify at a series of public hearings, after which a final report is issued that seeks to determine the cause of an incident and recommend safety improvements.