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Alaska News

Coast Guard board to investigate sinking of Scandies Rose crab boat on New Year’s Eve

This undated photo shows the Scandies Rose vessel in Seattle. (Mike Fancher/The Seattle Times via AP)

The Coast Guard has formed a Marine Board of Investigation to determine the causes of the sinking of the Scandies Rose, a Seattle-managed crab boat that went down with the loss of five of its seven crew on Dec. 31 in the Gulf of Alaska.

The Coast Guard says the Scandies Rose sank near Sutwik Island on the night of Dec. 31, 2019.

The board was formed earlier this week, and it is still unclear where — and when — a hearing will be scheduled, according to Chief Petty Officer Matthew Schofield, a public affairs officer with the 17th Coast Guard District in Juneau.

The board will look into the sinking of the 130-foot boat, which had left the port of Kodiak and was headed out to the Bering Sea to begin winter harvests of cod and then crab. The board will try to determine the factors involved in the accident, and come up with recommendations on how to prevent them. The recommendations will be submitted to the Coast Guard commandant.

Schofield declined to release the names of the board members, saying that they were being withheld “in the best interest of the investigation.”

The National Transportation Safety Board also is investigating the sinking. An NTSB spokesman said the Coast Guard is taking the lead, and referred a reporter to the Coast Guard for details about who will participate and in what capacity.

Coast Guard marine boards have been formed to investigate past accidents, such as the sinking of the Destination crab boat in 2017 with the loss of six crew. The investigation could take more than two years to complete.

The Destination crabber had no survivors to help investigators understand what went wrong.

There were two survivors among the seven crew of the Scandies Rose, which faced 20-foot seas, icing and strong winds as their 130-foot crab boat with a full load of pot gear on deck took on water off the coast of southwest Alaska around 10 p.m. on Dec. 31.

One of the survivors, John Lawler, reports the boat listed hard to the starboard side when he was in his bunk. Though no emergency alarms sounded, he was convinced the boat was in grave danger.

The crew assembled in the wheelhouse as a Mayday call was sent off by the captain Gary Cobban Jr.

Only Lawler and Dean Gribble Jr. were able to make it into a life raft, and were rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter about four hours later.

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