- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Updated, 12:50 p.m. The Coast Guard late last night suspended its search for the missing crew member of the Alaska Ranger, Satoshi Konno of Japan. The Coast Guard Cutter Munro and a MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter searched more than 875 square miles through ten-foot seas and periodic snow squalls. “The decision to suspend the search for Mr. Konno was a very difficult one. We searched long and hard for Mr. Konno and unfortunately have been unable to locate any sign of the fishing master from the Alaska Ranger. Our hearts go out to all the families who lost loved ones in this tragic event,” said Rear Adm. Gene Brooks, 17th district Coast Guard commander.

One crew member is still missing after 42 fisherman aboard the Alaska Ranger were rescued from the icy waters of the Bering Sea when the ship sank early Easter morning in what a top U.S. official says is one of the largest arctic search-and-rescue mission in U.S. Coast Guard history.

The captain of the Alaska Ranger and three crew members did not survive after the trawler sank more than 6,000 feet into the sea sometime after 3 a.m., about 120 miles west of Dutch Harbor.

However, 22 of the crew members who made it to life rafts were rescued by its sister ship, the Alaska Warrior. Seven other survivors were picked up by the Coast Guard from a lifeboat, and 13 crew members did not make it to life rafts and were spread out over a mile in the sea and were rescued at daybreak by the Cutter Munro, two Coast Guard helicopters and a rescue swimmer.

  • Audio:‘Mayday’ distress call

    The fishing crew survived the 35 degree sea temperatures with 10-foot swells and winds howling up to 25 knots by wearing survival suits with strobe lights attached, to signal a search-and-rescue team.

    “I went down without disconnecting from the helicopter and picked them up one at a time,” said the rescue swimmer, Petty Officer 2nd Class O’Brien Hollow.

    One crew member who remains missing was initially scooped out of the water with a rescue basket, but he tumbled back out as it was being retrieved up into the helicopter.

    Rather than sitting in the rescue basket, the crew member was crouching and it may have tipped the basket, said Coast Guard Capt. James McPherson. The swimmer had moved on to rescue another crew member and was not in a position to rescue the fisherman again.

    “These were very difficult maneuvers for helicopters to do,” said Adm. Thad W. Allen, Coast Guard commandant, especially with hypothermia victims.

    The rescue swimmer remained behind for several hours in a life raft to allow more room in the helicopter for the survivors suffering from hypothermia to quickly reach the Cutter Munro for medical treatment, Capt. McPherson said.

    The search effort for the missing crewman is continuing with the cutter Munro and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter.

    Adm. Allen was briefed on the rescue mission during a prescheduled meeting with reporters at the Coast Guard’s Washington headquarters yesterday morning. Adm. Allen said the only Coast Guard rescue he recalled that came near to this in sheer numbers was a 2001 incident during which 35 cruise ship passengers were rescued near Cape Hatteras, N.C.

    The Seattle-based Alaska Ranger started taking on water in the rudder room after 3 a.m. Sunday, and it quickly turned into an uncontrollable flood, according to the “mayday” call that was replayed for Adm. Allen.

    The Fishing Company of Alaska, which owns the 184-foot ship, said in a statement that it did “not have sufficient information to determine why the vessel foundered.”

    The company identified the victims as Eric Peter Jacobsen, captain; Daniel Cook, chief engineer; mate David Silveira; and crewman Byron Carrillo. The company thinks the missing crew member is Satashi Konno of Japan.

    Nearly 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled when the ship sank, but any cleanup is unlikely owing to strong winds that spread the sheen over a half-mile, an official with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation told the Associated Press.

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