Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fishing Boat Runs Aground On Akutan Island

Four crew members of a grounded fishing boat used a crab pot to lower themselves off their vessel Wednesday to get to higher ground, where they were hoisted to safety by a rescue helicopter. The Coast Guard identified the crew as Dan Oliver, 46; Clint Packer, 43; Kevin Fisner, 36; and Terry Meyer, 29. No hometowns were available for the crew members. All were taken to nearby Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands for medical evaluations, but there were no reported injuries, Brad Anderson, the operations officer on the Coast Guard cutter Munro, told The Associated Press by satellite phone Wednesday. The storm-force winds twice kept the Coast Guard from lifting crewman directly from the Icy Mist, a 58-foot fishing boat based in Kodiak, after it went hard aground Wednesday on the rocky shore of Akutan Island. "They were able to disembark the fishing vessel by lowering a crab pot off their stern and lowering themselves on the line," Anderson said. He said based on the communications from the scene, it didn't sound like the fishing crew had to do much swimming once off the fishing boat. Rescuers instructed the crewmen to head for shore and then to higher ground on the island to get away from a sheer cliff face that was swirling with wind, Anderson said. Anderson said the helicopter pilots made sure they could hoist the crew members safely by hovering there before asking them to move to higher ground.Winds reported at 45 mph when the vessel went aground increased to 80 mph, with gusts to 120 mph, by midmorning, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios from the command center in Juneau. The Coast Guard took a relayed mayday call at 4:38 a.m. Wednesday reporting that the Icy Mist was taking on water. The Aleutian Islands lack an integrated network of marine radio coverage. The mayday call was received by the vessel Arctic Fox, which relayed the message to the Northern Glacier, whose crew contacted the Coast Guard. The vessel was later reported aground on the island. An HH-65 Dolphin helicopter, which has a range of about 120 miles, launched from Dutch Harbor and reached the vessel at 6:45 a.m. but strong winds made a rescue impossible, Rios said. The helicopter returned to its base. The Coast Guard Cutter Munro, on patrol in the Bering Sea, was ordered to Akutan. It stood by 4 miles off shore and monitored the scene. Two larger helicopters, MH-60 Jayhawks from St. Paul Island about 265 miles northwest of Akutan, reached the vessel at 9:30 a.m. The larger helicopters also were unable to lift the crewmen off the vessel. "This is when the wind kicked up to 80 miles per hour and 120 mile-per-hour gusts," Rios said. Anderson said there were 20- to 30-foot seas during the rescue. The cutter was preparing to resume patrols after the rescue at Akutan Island, 766 miles southwest of Anchorage and 40 miles east of Dutch Harbor, a major Aleutian Islands fishing port.

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