Late on Monday Feb. 13, the U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for the six-man crew of the 98-foot crabber Destination, which likely sank about two miles northwest of St. George Island, Alaska.
The boat’s EPIRB sent out an emergency beacon from that area on Saturday morning. At the time, 30-mph winds had started to whip up 5- to 8-foot seas, and it had started to snow. Reports from other boats included increased freezing spray leading to icing conditions.
The Destination is based out of Seattle but operates primarily out of Sand Point, Alaska. It was on its way from Dutch Harbor to St. Paul Island at the beginning of the opilio crab season, according to an attorney acting as a spokesman for the ship’s ownership group. At the time of the incident, it was loaded with a full set of pots.
“The west end of the island is known for hellacious tides,” Pat Pletnikoff, mayor of the town of St. George, told the Seattle Times. “Those tides can throw you around. A lot of times it doesn’t make a difference how big your vessel is … and everyone uses extreme caution when trying to transit the area.”
On Saturday, a Coast Guard search and rescue crew located the EPIRB, a life ring and tarps in a small oil sheen, but no sign of the crew.
All reports note that the vessel 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.
The Coast Guard conducted aerial searches through the night on Saturday and into Sunday and Monday, according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson. Volunteers searched the shores of St. George Island for any sign of the crew, and good Samaritan fishing boats joined the Coast Guard in searching nearby waters.
“I’d like to thank the volunteers on St. George Island who conducted shoreline searches and the crew members of the fishing vessels Bering Rose and Silver Spray for helping with the search efforts,” said Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, Coast Guard 17th District commander.
The Coast Guard has not released the names of the crew members on the Destination, but people familiar with the boat have commented.
Dylan Hatfield, a Petersburg, Alaska, fisherman, told the Alaska Dispatch News that his brother was aboard the boat and that every member of the six-man crew was an experienced fisherman.
Gail O'Grady of Poulsbo, Wash., told KOMO News her husband, Larry O'Grady, has been fishing on the Destination for 20 years and is the engineer and fill-in captain.
The family of crew member Charles Glenn Jones has set up a YouCaring site for donations.
Donations to the Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial have been coming to the aid of fishing families since 1988. Their programs support safety training, counseling, and educational scholarships for the spouses and children of fishermen lost at sea.
We will update this story as information becomes public.
Jessica Hathaway contributed reporting to this story.