On Wednesday morning, the United States Coast Guard responded to a sinking vessel reported to be going down in Fairweather Grounds between Cross Sound and Yakutat Bay.
Coast Guard Watchstanders directed the launch of a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Sitka on Wednesday morning after receiving a “Mayday” call from the 73-foot fishing vessel “Kupreanof,” reporting it was taking on water off-shore of Lituya Bay.
The Jayhawk arrived at the scene, and assumed an 80-foot hover over the scene. The crew of the “Kupreanof” had already donned survival suits and were, one by one working their way along the vessel’s rail and entering the water, as the skipper of the vessel maintained radio contact. As the mariners were jumping into the water and entering the raft, a Coast Guard Swimmer was deployed into the water and swam to the raft.
Deemed too dangerous to hoist the crew of the “Kupreanof” from the raft because of the possibility of the rotor wash blowing the raft back into the sinking vessel, the swimmer instead assisted each man into the water one by one and helped them gain access to the “basket.” Each man was hoisted to safety into the Jayhawk one by one.
The crew was transported to Emergency Medical Services in Sitka. All four mariners were reported to be in “good condition.”
“The crew of the Kupreanof did the right thing by calling for help, putting on their immersion suits and safely abandoning the ship,” said Lt. Ben Neal, a pilot at Air Station Sitka. “Emergencies can occur at any time and having the right safety equipment is critical when operating in Alaska’s extreme environment.”
“As of Oct. 15, 2015, commercial fishing vessel safety exams will be mandatory for vessels operating beyond three nautical miles offshore,” says Scott Giard, command duty officer, Sector Juneau. “This case is a perfect example of why exams are crucial for the safety of fishermen.”
Coast Guard Personnel are working to identify the cause of the sinking.
A video provided by the Coast Guard of the rescue operation can be seen below.