Alaska News

Alaska ferry crew rescues Canadian fisherman; 2 others presumed dead

An Alaska state ferry rescued one of three Canadian fishermen who had been aboard a vessel that sank off British Columbia early Saturday, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.?

Around 1:30 a.m. during a routine trip from Bellingham, Wash., to Ketchikan, the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Malaspina received a distress call. The ferry, carrying several hundred passengers, diverted from its route to respond to the report of a capsized vessel that had three men aboard, said Jeremy Woodrow, a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Transportation.

The ferry crew couldn't see the vessel in the water, Woodrow said. "The Malaspina deployed their fast rescue boat and was able to locate a crew member. They continued to search, to no avail."

Cpl. Poppy Hallam with the RCMP said in a statement that the vessel, which she described as a 67-foot steel landing craft, began taking on water about three miles north of Campbell River on Vancouver Island. She said it capsized about a half-mile from a docking area.

"Everything went too quickly for them to get to shore," Hallam said of the fishermen. "I think they thought they were going to make it."

From shoreline, Hallam said, the RCMP could see the lights of the Malaspina.

Three Canadian Coast Guard vessels, the Campbell River RCMP and a helicopter from a Canadian Forces base responded to the sunken vessel. The rescued fisherman was taken from the Malaspina to a local hospital, she said.

"He was rescued right away," Hallam said. She said his condition was "decent ... obviously cold, but no major injuries."

Crews searched all day Saturday for the two missing fishermen -- by land, sea and air -- but they were not found, Hallam said. On Tuesday, there were plans for a dive team with the RCMP to attempt to find the sunken vessel, she said.

Woodrow said the Malaspina resumed travel to Ketchikan around 4:30 a.m. Saturday. He said Alaska state ferries respond to distress calls "a couple times a year."

"We have 11 vessels that run 24/7. They cover 3,500 miles of coastline, so we happen to be in areas when other boats aren't," Woodrow said.