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Deadly Catch: Alaska Fishing Vessel Katmai Sinks

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Brant Point LighthouseThe bodies of five fishermen were recovered Wednesday and four crew members were rescued after a fishing vessel sank in the Bering Sea off Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Among those rescued was the ship’s captain.

Two members of the 11-man crew are still missing.

The Katmai, a 93-foot cod-processing vessel, ran into trouble Wednesday evening, but there is no official word yet on what caused it to sink.

The Coast Guard initially received an email from another boat saying that the Katmai had lost steering and was taking on water in an enclosed area of the stern, then it received a signal from the boat’s Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon, which is activated once a vessel is submerged.

A search team flew out from Kodiak and rescued the four survivors by dropping two life rafts into the frigid 43-degree waters. They are reported to be in good health. The Coast Guard reported that waves reached up to 17 feet high, with 34 mph winds and precipitation.

The boat, owned by the Seattle-based Katmai Fisheries, was carrying a load of cod and was headed towards the port of Dutch Harbor, about 800 miles southwest of Anchorage. It was reported that all of the crew members hailed from Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

The Coast Guard said that it had inspected the Katmai during the past two years, but the inspections didn’t include checking for signs of hull weakness or other issues that might lead to flooding.

The last time the Coast Guard launched such a major rescue-and-recovery effort for a fishing vessel was on March 23, 2008, when a Seattle-based fishing boat sank off the Aleutian Islands. The captain and three crew members died, and the 42 remaining crew members were rescued safely.

Alaskan fishing crews have received widespread attention since the launch of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. Princess Cruise Lines even offers a shore excursion to Ketchikan where passengers spend a day in the life of a fisherman aboard the F/V Aleutian Ballad, which was featured on the popular show.

Link: Seattle Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Associated Press, Anchorage Daily News

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Katmai is also the name of a beautiful part of Alaska and one of America’s most spectacular Hidden National Parks.