Fishing Boat Sinks Off Alaska; 4 Dead

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A fishing vessel sank off Alaska's Aleutian Islands early Sunday morning. Forty-two crew members of the Alaska Ranger were rescued.

The boat's captain and three other crew members died in the accident. One crew member is still missing.

The Coast Guard continued its search through Sunday night, but has not located the missing crewman.

The boat radioed that it started taking on water shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday.  The crew lost control of its rudder some 120 miles west of Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island.

One person fell into the water from a rescue basket as it was being lifted into a rescue helicopter, Coast Guard Lt. Eric Eggan said. It is not known if this was the missing crew member.

"It could be, but we're not sure," he said.

The helicopter was low on fuel and could not perform an immediate search, Eggan said. The incident is being investigated.

The 184-foot 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."

Seas with up to 8-foot waves and 25-knot winds were reported at the time the ship sank, said Chief Petty Officer Barry Lane. He said the Coast Guard was investigating the cause of the sinking.

The sunken vessel's sister ship, the Alaska Warrior, took part in the rescue operation along with two Coast Guard helicopters that were used to pluck crew members from the water and from life rafts, Lane said.

At least 13 of the crew members were not in life rafts, and were picked out of the ocean along a mile stretch. They were wearing survival suits and had strobe lights on.

Coast Guard officials said it was unknown how or when the four died.

The company identified them as ship's captain Eric Peter Jacobsen, chief engineer Daniel Cook, mate David Silveira and crewman Byron Carrillo.

"They were incredibly brave, hard working men. Our hearts are broken," the company said in a statement. The men's ages and hometowns were not released.

State environmental regulators were notified that the ship was carrying 145,000 gallons of diesel when it sank in deep seas, 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 winds made any cleanup effort unlikely, but those conditions would disperse a spill much more quickly than calm weather, Pearson said.

Source: The Associated Press

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