Three fishermen were rescued from Umnak Island, near Unalaska, by the Coast Guard early Monday after ditching their drifting fishing vessel and swimming to shore in survival suits, all with 12- to 15-foot seas swirling around them.
The crew of the 58-foot commercial fishing boat Neptune I lost engine power at about 11 p.m. on Sunday and radioed the Coast Guard.
A St. Paul-based helicopter crew and an HC-130 Hercules airplane from Kodiak were sent to the scene, according to the Coast Guard.
At the same time, another fishing vessel nearby, the Alaskan Enterprise, helped rescuers by using its floodlights to guide helicopters to the fishermen, who abandoned their drifting ship and swam to the northwest shore of Umnak Island.
"This is a case where the crew felt for their own safety it was safer to make their way to shore than to stay on the vessel," said Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley, a Coast Guard spokesman.
It's not clear how far the fishermen swam but the water in that part of the Bering Sea is about 34 degrees in the winter, according to the National Weather Service. Survival suits, which insulate the body from the effects of cold water, are required on commercial fishing vessels, Mosley said.
The fishermen were rescued at 3:19 a.m. on Monday and taken to Unalaska, where they reported no medical problems.
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