4 dead, 1 missing from Alaska ship

March 24, 2008 12:21:07 PM PDT
The Coast Guard searched by air and sea Monday for a crew member missing from a fishing vessel that sank off Alaska's Aleutian Islands, killing the captain and three crew members. Forty-two crew members were rescued, some plucked directly from the frigid water. The Seattle-based Alaska Ranger started taking on water shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday after losing control of its rudder 120 miles west of Dutch Harbor, which is on Unalaska Island. Among the dead were the ship's captain.

The missing crew member was identified Monday as Satashi Konno of Japan. Chief Petty Officer Barry Lane said the Coast Guard cutter Munro searched for Konno overnight and aerial searches began at daylight Monday.

Konno, whose age was unknown, was wearing a survival suit, but even so, water temperatures are at 36 degrees and that makes survival tough, Lane said.

"It's not a pleasant state," Lane said. "We are trying to find him as quickly as possible."

On Sunday, two Coast Guard helicopters plucked crew members to safety from the water and from life rafts, Lane said. At least 13 of them were picked directly out of the water out along a mile stretch of ocean. They were wearing survival suits and had strobe lights.

One person fell into the water from a rescue basket as it was being lifted into a rescue helicopter. It was not clear if that person was Konno, officials said.

The cause of the sinking was under investigation. The ship's owner, the Fishing Company of Alaska, said in a statement that it did "not have sufficient information to determine why the vessel foundered."

Waves up to 8 feet and 25-knot wind were reported at the time the 184-foot ship sank, Lane said.

Twenty-two survivors were taken to Dutch Harbor in the sunken vessel's sister ship, the Alaska Warrior, which took part in the rescue. The ship, which also carried bodies of three victims, arrived about midnight at a private dock.

The other 20 survivors and the fourth victim were on board the Munro, which remained at the scene Monday helping in the search for Konno.

The company identified the captain as Eric Peter Jacobsen, 65, of Lynnwood, Wash. The other victims were identified as chief engineer Daniel Cook, hometown unknown; mate David Silveira of San Diego; and crewman Byron Carrillo, believed to be from Seattle. "They were incredibly brave, hardworking men. Our hearts are broken," the company said in a statement.

The captain's son, Scott Jacobsen, told KIRO-TV in Seattle the family wants to know what would cause such a large vessel to sink under conditions it should have been able to withstand.

"Something was wrong, went really wrong, so we're interested in the details," he said. "Things like that don't just happen. My dad's been fishing all his life and he's never had anything remotely close to this happen."

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Monday that the company owner, Karena Adler, has an address in Mercer Island, Wash., a Seattle suburb, but could not be reached for comment. The Associated Press could not reach her Monday morning because she has an unlisted number.

State environmental regulators were notified that the ship was carrying 145,000 gallons of diesel when it sank, according to Leslie Pearson, emergency response manager for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

According to initial reports, an oil sheen covered an area of a quarter mile by a half mile, Coast Guard spokesman Ray Dwyer said. The strong wind made any cleanup effort unlikely, but the conditions also would disperse a spill more quickly than calm weather, Pearson said.

In 2006, the Fishing Company of Alaska was among those fined over problems on a catcher-processor ship that it managed. Federal officials said the case stemmed from a multiyear investigation that documented a range of federal violations, including keeping inaccurate information on required reports and fishing contrary to seasonal closures.

In December 2007, an engine fire damaged another of the company's ships, the Alaska Patriot, while it was docked near Dutch Harbor. No one was injured.


Associated Press writer Elizabeth M. Gillespie in Seattle contributed to this report.