Monday, March 24, 2008

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A fishing boat sank off Alaska’s Aleutian Islands yesterday, leaving four crew members including the captain dead and a fifth crewman missing, the Coast Guard said.

Forty-two of the 47 crew members on board the Seattle-based Alaska Ranger were rescued, but the search continued for the missing person, said Chief Petty Officer Barry Lane.

The vessel started taking on water shortly before 3 a.m. after losing control of its rudder 120 miles west of Dutch Harbor, which is on Unalaska Island.

The ship’s owner said 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, Petty Officer Lane said. The Coast Guard was investigating the cause of the sinking, he said.

The company identified those killed as ship’s captain Eric Peter Jacobsen, chief engineer Daniel Cook, mate David Silveira and crewman Byron Carrillo. Their 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, said Leslie Pearson, emergency-response manager for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

An oil sheen covered an area of a quarter mile by a half mile, Coast Guard spokesman Ray Dwyer said. Because of the strong winds, any cleanup effort is unlikely, although those conditions would disperse a spill much more quickly than calm weather, he said.

The Coast Guard cutter Munro and a C-130 remained to help search for the missing crew member, whose name was not released.

The Alaska Ranger is owned by Seattle-based Fishing Company of Alaska. A man who answered the company’s phone yesterday declined to comment.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Levi Read said the company sent an insurance adjuster to Dutch Harbor.

In December, an engine fire damaged another of the company’s ships, the Alaska Patriot, while it was docked near Dutch Harbor. No one was injured in the blaze.

Roger Deffendall, fire captain with the Unalaska Department of Public Safety, told radio station KIAL that a crew member extinguished the worst of the fire before he and the rest of the crew fled the trawler.

The Fishing Company of Alaska, the owner of the Alaska Juris, a catcher-processor ship it managed, and the ship’s captains were fined a combined $254,500 in 2006. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service said the company, the ship’s owner, Alaska Juris Inc., and its captains committed many violations, such as tampering with or destroying equipment used by industry observers.

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