Washington fisherman among the missing after crab boat capsizes in Oregon
Two commercial fishermen — one a man from Washington — are missing after their crab boat capsized Friday morning off the north jetty of Oregon's Tillamook Bay.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Two commercial fishermen — including a man from Washington — are missing after their crab boat capsized Friday morning off the north jetty of Oregon's Tillamook Bay.
Coast Guard boat and helicopter crews spent seven hours searching for the two men before suspending the search as hopes faded for their recovery.
The vessel, the 42-foot Network, went over at 7:42 a.m. as it attempted to traverse a bar to exit Tillamook Bay. The crab boat was hit by a wave estimated to be about 13 feet tall by the skipper, Darrin Mobley, who was able to swim to shore.
The bar is a narrow opening between two jetties where vessels can be buffeted by strong tides and, often, a line of breakers.
"It was a rough bar ... and a huge wave," said Mobley, in an interview Friday afternoon from his home in Bay City, Ore.
The two missing crewmen are George Shaw, 55, of Sequim; and Timothy Leake, 44, of Tillamook.
Shaw's wife, Dorothy, said her husband had been fishing for many years off Alaska and the Northwest coasts, as well as logging. But jobs in the woods have been scarce and salmon fishing has been limited, so Shaw opted — for the second year in a row — to crew aboard a Dungeness crab boat.
A Coast Guard official initially said Friday that Mobley was wearing a life jacket and the other two crew members were not. But later in the day, a Coast Guard statement said none of the crew was wearing a life jacket.
A Coast Guard rescue vessel was able to reach the scene shortly after the accident. Other Coast Guard boats and helicopters assisted in the search. As late as 8:30 a.m. Friday, search crews had sighted at least one of the missing crew, but rough conditions made it impossible to reach him, Coast Guard officials said.
At the time the Network overturned, a small-craft advisory was in effect, but the bar was open to passage by commercial fishing boats.
The Network, based in the Oregon port of Garibaldi, was one of many crab boats headed out to sea on Friday to drop baited traps known as pots in advance of Monday's opening of the commercial Dungeness season.
The Coast Guard, citing fatality studies by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, has tagged the Dungeness fishery as the most dangerous in the Northwest and Alaska between 2000 and 2006, when 17 Dungeness crabbers died in capsizings and other accidents. The Dungeness vessels are typically much smaller than the boats that harvest king crab off Alaska. The pots also are much lighter than king-crab pots, but the pots can significantly affect stability as they are piled up on deck for transport to the harvest grounds or back to port.
Some of the major Northwest crab-boat accidents occurred as vessels were transiting river-mouth bars, where breakers — depending on the tides and seas — can form a significant obstacle to passage.
The Tillamook bar is one of the most treacherous, and it has been the scene of numerous accidents including the February 2006 capsizing of the Catherine M, which took the lives of three commercial crabbers.
In an effort to reduce the number of accidents, the Coast Guard has conducted voluntary dockside safety inspections of Dungeness crab boats in advance of the season opening. Coast Guard crews check for life rafts, survival suits, emergency locator beacons and other key emergency gear.
There is no requirement that life jackets be worn when crossing the bar, Coast Guard officials said, but it is recommended, particularly when conditions are rough.
"It can be the difference in survival," said Lt. Mark Heussner, from the Coast Guard's station in Astoria, Ore.
Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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