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Captain of capsized fishing boat jumps from safety back into water to rescue crewman

In this video provided by a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk crew, the captain of the fishing vessel Grayling jumps into the water to rescue a crewman after the Grayling capsized in the Kupreanof Strait near Raspberry Island on Monday. A good Samaritan vessel crew rescued one other crewman from the Grayling. 

The captain of a commercial fishing boat jumped back into 47-degree waters Monday to save one of his crewmen after their vessel capsized near Kodiak Island, according to a witness and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Grayling, with four aboard, started to take on water Monday afternoon in Kupreanof Strait near Raspberry Island, roughly 35 miles northwest of Kodiak city, according to a statement from the Coast Guard.

Dale Pruitt, captain of the Calista Marie, was nearby with a three-person crew at the time, as were two other fishing boats, Pruitt said in a phone interview from Kodiak on Tuesday.

The boats were out Monday catching salmon on a purse seine — a long wall of netting used to encircle fish.

But only one boat could set its net at a time, Pruitt said. While Pruitt waited, he said, he noticed that "something was wrong with the Grayling." Its stern had nearly sunk below the water.

"So I went over there and asked what was going on," Pruitt, 57, said. "And he goes, 'I can't get the water out.' "

The Coast Guard reported 17-mph winds and 5-foot seas in the area that day. Pruitt described the seas as "pretty big," with 5- or 6-foot waves.

Pruitt said the Calista Marie started towing the sinking boat to shore, only about a quarter-mile away. But about halfway there, the Grayling unexpectedly rolled, sending the four fishermen into the water.

"So my skiff let go of them and started picking up people," Pruitt said.

The Calista Marie crew rescued one person. The Grayling captain, Christian Trosvig, and another crew member climbed aboard the Grayling's own skiff, Pruitt said.

They couldn't find the fourth person, he said.

Pruitt said the crews were scanning the water for the missing crew member, trying to figure out what to do next.

"That was a scary moment," he said.

The Calista Marie cut its tie to the Grayling, not wanting to pull it farther in case the missing crew member had a pocket of air under the boat — which, while upside down, was still floating, Pruitt said.

About 20 minutes passed, Pruitt said, and suddenly the missing fisherman's head popped above the water. Trosvig, wearing a life jacket, immediately jumped from the skiff back into the sea. He swam roughly 50 yards to reach the crew member, Pruitt said.

"Chris was the hero. He saved that guy's life," Pruitt said. "Chris swam over there, grabbed him, pulled him into the skiff and gave him CPR for probably five minutes. That revived him."

Meanwhile, at 3:25 p.m., Coast Guard Sector Anchorage heard a message from the Calista Marie over the radio: The Grayling had capsized, Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Colclough said in an interview Tuesday. It relayed the message to a Kodiak-based MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew on a training flight nearby. The helicopter was diverted to the capsized boat.

"When they arrived on scene, the good Samaritan vessel, Calista Marie, had rescued one (person), and then while the air station (crew) was on scene, they witnessed the captain of the Grayling jump into the water and go to rescue one of his crewmen," Colclough said.

A video of Monday's rescue, taken by a camera mounted on the Coast Guard helicopter, shows the captain pulling the crewman to a nearby skiff as the man's head rises above and drops below the surface. The man did not have a life jacket on, the Coast Guard said.

Colclough said the Coast Guard would not release the names of the Grayling crew members. He said the captain and two of the crew members reported no injuries in the capsizing.

The Coast Guard helicopter flew the man rescued by the captain to the Kodiak Municipal Airport, where an emergency medical crew treated him for hypothermia and aspiration of diesel fuel, Colclough said.

Trosvig — who owns the Grayling, according to public records — has been fishing in the area for more than two decades, Pruitt said.

The cause of the capsizing had not been determined Tuesday, Colclough said. Pruitt also said he didn't know what led to the boat's sinking.

Trosvig could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

In the Coast Guard statement, Lt. Kevin Riley, an Air Station Kodiak Jayhawk pilot, praised the Grayling captain who, he said, "did not hesitate" to save his crew member.

"It was incredible to see him jump into 47-degree water to save his crew," Riley said. "It is a testament to how tough those fishermen are and how far they will go to help their fellow Alaskans."

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