Coast Guard rescues two fishing vessel crews

Michelle Theriault Boots
Kodiak-based Coast Guard and emergency medical personnel transfer a survivor from fishing vessel Kimberly from a rescue helicopter to an ambulance Jan. 25, 2012. CHARLY HENGEN / U.S. Coast Guard

With one fishing boat hard aground and another sinking dozens of miles away, it was a busy morning Wednesday for Kodiak-based helicopter rescue crews, the Coast Guard said.

It began with a call for help from the 58-foot fishing vessel Kimberly, hard aground Tuesday evening in Jute Bay, off the Alaska Peninsula in southwestern Shelikof Strait. The boat's skipper called his wife about 8 p.m. on a satellite phone. She in turn contacted the Coast Guard, said spokeswoman Lt. j.g. Olivia Jones.

Amid high winds -- gusts at more than 100 mph -- the four people stayed on the boat overnight, with a Kodiak-based Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules plane and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter taking turns watching from above, waiting for enough light for a rescue.

The Jayhawk was forced to return to Kodiak to refuel, and the Coast Guard launched another. As the second helicopter flew west toward the Kimberly, the Coast Guard was receiving a mayday call from south of Kodiak about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday: The 68-foot Heritage was sinking, its seven-member crew donning survival suits.

The second Jayhawk changed course toward the Heritage, and the Coast Guard says it sent another helicopter crew to the Kimberly. About 7 a.m., the rescuers plucked two members of the Heritage's crew from the water. Another five crew members were rescued by another fishing vessel, the Tuxedni, according to the Coast Guard.

Back at the Kimberly, the four-person crew had walked to shore at low tide. A helicopter hoisted them onboard about 10:30 a.m. with the help of a rescue swimmer.

All 11 people rescued Wednesday were wearing survival suits and reported to be in good medical condition. Their names have not been released.

It's not yet known what caused the Kimberly to run aground or the Heritage to sink. Both incidents are under investigation, the Coast Guard said.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at or 257-4344.

Anchorage Daily News