The 38-foot Dungeness crab boat Coastal Reign capsized while crossing the bar in Oregon’s Tillamook Bay, heading into Garibaldi on Saturday, Feb. 20. Of the four crew members, two survived the capsizing.

Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier reported that the Coast Guard was watching the bar area as boats were returning on Saturday afternoon. They had issued small craft restrictions but had not closed the bar.

On its bar crossing, the Warrenton-based Coastal Reign turned sideways in the surf and capsized at 4:40 p.m. The Coast Guard responded with Tillamook Bay rescue boats and a helicopter from Astoria. Good Samaritan fishing boats also assisted.

According to the Coast Guard, two people were pulled from the water by a boat team. One of them was unresponsive. One crew member had climbed onto the rocks of a jetty and was rescued by the aircrew. The fourth person was recovered by a boat team amid floating debris and was also unresponsive. The Coast Guard had recovered all four crew by 6 p.m. One crew member was declared dead immediately, and the other died at the hospital the next morning.

Todd Chase

Family members have disclosed that those lost were Todd Chase and Zach Zappone. Both families have started GoFundMe pages to help recover from the loss of their loved ones.

Zach Zappone at the helm of the Coastal Reign on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.

The season has been open just over a week, starting with dump day on Saturday, Feb. 13, when fishermen dropped pots ahead of the official open on Tuesday. The Coast Guard  Station Cape Disappointment responded to three distress calls at 7:30, 9:15 and 9:30 that morning.

Station Cape Disappointment and Station Grays Harbor launched 47-foot lifeboat rescue crews at 7:30 a.m. for the F/V Terry F. taking on water near Willapa Bay. A Coast Guard helicopter hoisted three crew and the captain’s dog off the capsized crab boat.

The crew was then diverted at 9:15 a.m. to the vicinity of Gearhart, Ore., to assist another fishing vessel with a crew member who had been injured after the boat was struck by a wave. The lifeboat rescue crew transferred a first responder to the vessel in 16- to 18-foot seas. With a head laceration and foot injury, the injured crew member and was able to remain on the fishing boat while it transited the Columbia River bar with the lifeboat crew as an escort. At 1:45 p.m., the 62-foot crab boat was moored in Ilwaco, and the patient was safely transferred to EMS.

Simultaneously, a separate lifeboat rescue crew was assisting the crew of the 66-foot F/V Noyo Dawn off the coast of Long Beach, Wash.

The initial distress call came in at 9:30 a.m., stating a vessel with five people aboard was disabled and drifting to shore, dragging its anchor. In 16 to 18-foot seas, the lifeboat crew placed the vessel in tow and began the transit south. With the increased risk of crossing the bar, the lifeboat crew from the Terry F. rescue joined to assist with the tow of the Noyo Dawn. The ebb tide was strong enough that at several points, all three vessels were unable to make any headway. The Noyo Dawn was taken to a pier in Warrenton, Ore., and safely docked around 9:30 p.m.

“The actions of the Coast Guard small-boat crews throughout the day were phenomenal, but so were the actions of the crews we assisted, said Lt. Jessica Shafer, commanding officer at Station Cape Disappointment. "When our boat arrived on scene with the distressed vessel in Long Beach, the fishing vessel's crew had already donned their survival equipment. They knew what attachment points would be the strongest to use, and they were efficient at bringing our assistance lines over and attaching them. Those precious few moments can make all the difference.”

The Station Cape Disappointment crews spent nearly 28 hours underway in seas up to 20 feet.

This story has been updated to correct Zappone’s last name.

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 15 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute's Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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