Search suspended for missing vessel and 6 crewmembers in Bering Sea
The United States Coast Guard has suspended its search for fishing vessel Destination, which sent out a an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) alert early on 11 February from northwest of St. George, Alaska.
Destination – a 92-foot fishing vessel based out of Seattle, Washington – caught crab in the Bering Sea. No mayday call was received by the Coast Guard indicating that the vessel was undergoing any issue, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson.
From Saturday through Monday, 11 to 13 February, kodiak aircrews, volunteer vessels and ground search parties scoured the area near the Pribilof Islands for the six crewmembers who were aboard Destination.
Coast Guard watchstanders coordinated a total of 21 searches. One Coast Guard-led search uncovered vessel debris including buoys, tarps and a life-ring belonging to Destination, and spotted an oil sheen near where the vessel's EPIRB was set off. However, as of Monday, when the Coast Guard called off its search, no crewmembers had been found.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the six crewmembers during this extremely difficult time,” said Rear Admiral Michael McAllister, Coast Guard 17th District commander, in a prepared statement. “The decision to suspend a search is always difficult and is made with great care and consideration.”
Among the missing crew are Darrik Seibold and Larry O'Grady, according to a Seattle Times report. While stationed in the Aleutian Islands port of Dutch Harbor on Thursday, 9 February, before departing on their late-winter harvest, the Destination crew enjoyed pizza and beer with Seibold’s brother Dylan Hatfield, who is also a Bering fisherman and had served on Destination’s crew for six years before taking work on another boat in 2014.
"These boys loved what they did," Hatfield told The Seattle Times. "They worked so hard and were the best in the biz."
Hatfield, who helped his brother Seibold land a spot on Destination’s crew, recalled feeling secure aboard the vessel.
"I never felt unsafe on that boat, and I would never have gotten my brother on the boat if I felt it was unsafe," Hatfield said to the Times.
All crewmembers aboard the vessel “were experienced, professional fishermen,” reaffirmed attorney Mike Barcott, a spokesman for the boat's owner, in an email from Seattle to AZ Central.
Approximately 5,730 square nautical miles were covered during the three-day search. Assets involved in the Coast Guard’s search for the six mariners aboard the Destination included two HC-130 Hercules airplanes, two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters and one MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak; Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau, a 378-foot high endurance cutter homeported in Honolulu, Hawaii; and around-the-clock watchstanders in the 17th District command center coordinating the search and communications. Crews of the fishing vessels Silver Spray and Bering Rose also assisted in the search, as did the community of St. George, which sent search parties out to patrol the shoreline for any signs of the vessel or crew.
“I’d like to thank the volunteers on St. George Island who conducted shoreline searches and the crewmembers of the fishing vessels Bering Rose and Silver Spray for helping with the search efforts,” said Rear Adm. McAllister.
The Discovery Channel’s reality TV series "Deadliest Catch," which follows fellow crabbers out on the Bering Sea, issued condolences on social media to the Destination crewmembers and their families and friends.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the crew members aboard the F/V Destination and their families," a message from the show's Twitter account said.