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46 Rescued After Abandoning Ship Near Kiska

Jul 27, 2016

Crewmembers abandoned the fishing vessel Alaska Juris after it began taking on water Tuesday afternoon.
Credit U.S. Coast Guard District 17

Forty-six crewmembers were rescued Tuesday night after their fishing vessel started sinking in the Aleutians. Now, officials are working on a rescue plan for the abandoned trawler.

The Alaska Juris began taking on water Tuesday afternoon near Kiska Island, nearly 700 miles west of Dutch Harbor. Crewmembers donned survival suits, sent a distress signal, and jumped ship for three life rafts.

"These individuals — all 46 people — are actually extremely lucky," said Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Rios says the Coast Guard received the distress call and coordinated the response from Kodiak. Three Good Samaritan vessels joined the rescue effort, along with a Coast Guard cutter, two C-130 airplanes, and two helicopters.

"While they were taking the people off the life rafts and putting them on the Good Samaritan vessels, we also had a total of four aircraft in the air, just making sure nothing went wrong," he said.

With all crewmembers safe and on their way to Adak, Rios said the Coast Guard is now focusing on what to do about the Alaska Juris — still floating in the same area of the Bering Sea.

He said a C-130 search crew will fly over the abandoned vessel Wednesday and assess the situation.

"They're going to fly over the vessel's last known position," he said. "They're going to try to determine if there's any kind of pollution and what the salvage plan would be, if possible."

There's no word yet on where the ship will be taken, according to officials with the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Detachment Unit in Dutch Harbor. It'll depend on whether the vessel can be repaired — and how its owner wants to proceed.

The trawler is owned by The Fishing Company of Alaska (FCA). Another FCA ship sank in 2008 and killed five people, while the National Transportation Safety Board determined the company failed to maintain a third vessel when it caught fire in 1995.

The Coast Guard is now investigating the current incident on the Alaska Juris. Officials said there were calm seas and limited visibility when crewmembers were rescued.