POULSBO — A Poulsbo woman told KOMO News on Feb. 12 that her husband is one of six crew members onboard a 98-foot crab boat reported missing in the Bering Sea near St. George, Alaska.
‘Whatever did happen, happened very fast,” Gail O’Grady told KOMO. She said her husband, Larry O’Grady, and the crew of the F/V Destination are very experienced; her husband has served as the Destination’s engineer and sometime captain for 20 years and has been fishing in Alaska for close to 30 years. The Destination is based in Seattle.
Coast Guard watchstanders received a radio beacon alert from the vessel late Feb. 11. The beacon was found approximately two miles northwest of the southwest island of St. George, the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District told the Associated Press.
“The Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau crew searched throughout the night and continues their search this morning,” the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District reported at 10 a.m. Alaska time Feb. 13. “A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak HC-130 Hercules aircraft crew is scheduled to search this morning as well.”
All told, the Coast Guard has dispatched two HC-130 Hercules airplane crews, two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews, an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew and the USCGC Morgenthau. Residents of St. George have assembled a search party that is patrolling the shoreline.
The Alaska Dispatch News reported that Destination was on its way from Dutch Harbor to St. Paul Island for the start of the snow crab fishery. The ship’s emergency beacon activated at 6:11 a.m. Feb. 11. A Coast Guard search and rescue crew found the emergency beacon, a life ring, buoys and tarps in a small oil sheen on the water about 2 miles northwest of St. George Island.
“The crew had sailed right by St. George within a half-hour of when the beacon activated,” Michael Barcott, an Anchorage maritime attorney representing the ship’s ownership group, told the Dispatch News.
Dylan Hatfield, a fisherman from Petersburg, Alaska, whose brother was aboard the Destination when it went missing, told the Dispatch News he had worked with every member of the six-man crew and knew them to be “professionals who did not take unnecessary risks.”
“Everybody I’ve talked to, nobody can believe of all the boats that this one went down,” Hatfield told the Dispatch News. He told the newspaper that he believed freezing spray, combined with rolling seas, could have caused the vessel to take on water and sink.
There was a heavy freezing-spray warning active on Feb. 10 and 11 for the nearshore waters of the Pribilof Islands, including St. George, according to the National Weather Service. In those conditions, “anything that blows off the ocean is going to freeze instantly onto the boats,” meteorologist Rebecca Duell told the Dispatch News.
The ocean temperature off St. George was 38 degrees this weekend, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.