SEATTLE -- The fog was very thick at 4:30 Friday morning 30 miles off the Washington coast where the 40-foot fishing boat Maverick was drifting when it was hit and sunk by the 90-foot fishing boat Viking Storm, the Coast Guard said.
Exactly how the collision happened is the subject of a Coast Guard investigation that will likely take months, but the Maverick went down quickly, and only three of the four people on board survived.
"It was very, very thick fog -- visibility about 40-foot," Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Denning, chief of marine investigation in Seattle, said Monday. "Visibility was certainly an issue."
The bigger boat hit the smaller boat on the left side toward the front, Denning said.
The missing crewman, Kelly Dickerson, was in a room in the forward part of the ship and the Maverick sank bow first.
"He was trapped," Denning said.
One crew member made it out of the vessel, and helped the other two crew members free themselves by breaking a window. The three survivors landed in the water without time to put on life jackets or survival suits.
"They narrowly escaped," Denning said.
They were picked up within 5 minutes by the crew of the Viking Storm.
The Coast Guard received an emergency beacon signal from the Maverick about the same time the Viking Storm reported the collision in the Pacific off La Push.
Coast Guard boats and a helicopter looked for more than a day before the search was suspended Saturday. Dickerson, 32, of Port Angeles, was presumed drowned.
His father, Darby Dickerson, 66, of Port Angeles, was the owner and captain of the Maverick and was on watch at the time of the collision. The long-liner, home port Seattle, had been out fishing for black cod and had 1,800 pounds on board.
The Viking Storm, a trawler out of Vancouver, British Columbia, had a full load of 130 tons of hagfish caught in Canadian waters that it was taking to Grays Harbor on the Washington coast. It was traveling at 8 to 10 mph, Denning said.
Both vessels had radar.
"Both as far as we know were working," Denning said. "Of course the Maverick, the whole vessel, is lost. The crew had used it that day. It was working prior to this activity."
The three survivors were transferred by the Coast Guard to the Quileute Harbor Marina at La Push. The captain had moored and fished out of La Push for decades, said tribal spokeswoman Jackie Jacobs. The tribal council extends its condolences to the Dickerson family, she said.
The Viking Storm returned to Canada and took its hagfish to Ucluelet on the west side of Vancouver Island.
A joint investigation with Canadian officials began immediately, Denning said, for what's called a "serious marine incident" because of the loss of life and property damage in excess of $100,000.
Both crews were tested for alcohol. No evidence of alcohol use was found. Drug tests are pending, Denning said. The investigator also flew to Victoria, British Columbia, and went to Ucluelet with Canadian investigators to check the Viking Storm navigation equipment and interview its three crew members. The Viking Storm did not take on water from the collision, Denning said.
The Maverick had 500 gallons of diesel on board, 2 gallons of gasoline and 6 gallons of lube oil. None of it could be recovered because the vessel sank in 1,600 feet of water, said Lt. j.g. Chelsey Olson of the incident management division. The Coast Guard notified Olympic National Park, the NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and the Hoh, Quinault and Quileute tribes of the possible pollution.
The goal of the Coast Guard investigation is to make safety recommendations that would prevent a similar collision from happening again, Denning said. There's also a possibility of civil penalties or criminal sanctions.