3 rescued, 1 dead as fishing boat sinks in Gulf

MAYDAY: Coast Guard airlifts crew from Gulf of Alaska after sinking.

April 20, 2010 

One of four crew members on a Seattle-based fishing boat died Tuesday when the vessel sank in the Gulf of Alaska.

The crewman who died suffered a head trauma while exiting the boat and was already deceased when rescuers arrived, but it's not clear if he died from the injury or hypothermia, said Dr. Phil Hess at Cordova Community Medical Center in Cordova.

The three men and one woman were in the frigid water at least two hours before a Coast Guard helicopter rescued them, he said.

He said the three who survived suffered hypothermia but were in stable condition late Tuesday because they wore survival suits.

"It's cold. They were wearing survival suits, which gave the other three the chance they had and they're doing well," he said. Hess declined to give details of the injured because family members had not been notified but said the deceased was a man.

The four fishermen whose Seattle-based vessel sank Tuesday evening were flown to Cordova for medical treatment late Tuesday after being pulled from the frigid waters of the Gulf of Alaska, according to the Coast Guard.

One person was unresponsive after being lifted from the water about 8 p.m. and three others were showing signs of hypothermia, said Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley. The Coast Guard crew provided CPR to the unresponsive crewman as they were being rushed to medics in Cordova, he said.

Coast Guard Communication Station Kodiak received a radio distress call about 5:30 p.m. from a crew member on the 75-foot Northern Belle reporting the vessel was sinking and the four people aboard were abandoning ship, the Coast Guard said. The vessel was about 50 miles south of Montague Island.

"Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is the Northern Belle," the caller says in a recording released by the Coast Guard. "We have four persons on board. We are getting in a life raft here. We are going down."

Within 10 minutes of getting the call, the Coast Guard deployed an MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter and a HC-130 Hercules aircraft, which left Kodiak at 5:40 p.m. The Cutter Long Island, which was 40 miles northwest of the Northern Belle, was also diverted to the area.

The Hercules arrived on scene at roughly 7:30 p.m. and found the crew in the water, reportedly with their survival suits on, Mosley said. It wasn't clear if they actually had made it into their own liferaft.

The aircraft dropped them a life raft and the Jayhawk got on scene just before 8 p.m., he said.

The helicopter began pulling the crew from the water about 8 p.m. and finished about 40 minutes later. The crew arrived in Cordova about 9:20 p.m. where emergency medical crews were waiting. The identities of the crew were not immediately released.

What caused the vessel to sink was not clear and would be the subject of an investigation, Mosley said. Weather at the time it went down was reported to be winds of 10 mph and seas at three to five feet.

"So, for the Gulf of Alaska, that's pretty calm," Mosley said.

The steel-hulled vessel, with a gross weight of 95 tons, was built in 1979 and was owned by Triton, Inc., of Seattle, according to the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission.

Its captain, Robert Royer, was among those on board when it sank, Coast Guard Petty Officer Jeffrey Roberto said.

This story was reported by Daily News reporter James Halpin and the Associated Press.

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