The final report on the loss of the Bering Sea crabber Destination and her six-man crew is out. Federal investigators draw a picture of the tragedy that includes a combination of stability, weight, weather and fatigue resulting in the 110-foot boat’s sudden capsizing as it left the leeward side of St. George Island in the Aleutian chain on Feb. 11, 2017.
Reading this report and remembering this loss confirms yet again that accidents at sea are rarely the result of one flawed decision. The cascade effect is almost always in play.
What we have learned from the Destination is that even a seasoned crew of fishermen who know each other and work well together is at risk of a sudden and devastating loss by setting into motion a chain of events from which they will not recover.
That is especially true in the icy waters of the Bering Sea during its darkest winter days. (Associate Editor Samuel Hill reports on the lessons learned in the course of the federal investigation of the Destination’s sinking and the loss of six souls onboard. Read the full story on page 24.)
Safety is a topic around which attitudes in the industry have changed dramatically, even in the last decade. A look at Fishing Back When (p. 3) shows that 10 years ago, the Coast Guard was pushing for regular drills and safety training. Since that time, the industry’s safety record has improved significantly — across the board in terms of losses, incidents and injuries at sea. The more we learn, the more we can improve safety gear to fit the needs of the industry in its many facets.
Federal and nonprofit safety program leaders across the country have worked diligently to make sure their trainings are user friendly and accessible to fishermen with erratic schedules, and also to tailor them to the needs of each fishing community.
As we learn more about what happened to the crew of the Destination on that February night, we ought to remember also that it happened to a crew — captain Jeff Hathaway, engineer Larry O’Grady, Charles Glenn Jones, Kai Hamik, Raymond Vincler and Darrik Seibold.
The fishermen on that boat were people, and people make mistakes, even when they are trying to work toward their own best interest. And while no single decision can be blamed for a tragedy, we are reminded that every decision made at sea carries ramifications for everyone onboard. No one carries that weight with more gravity than the captain.
I know most of our readers feel a profound sense of loss after learning the details of the Destination’s last trip. If you are so inclined, I hope you will consider making a donation to the Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial, which celebrates 30 years this fall. As always, your donation will help defray the costs of safety training and support educational scholarships for the children and partners of fishermen lost at sea.
Seattle’s Pacific Marine Expo this year (as every year) features a Safety track as part of the conference program (expo and conference registration are free of charge before the show begins), and it addresses several of the factors of the Destination sinking.
We will not forget the crew of the Destination. May they finally rest in peace.