SEATTLE – U.S. Coast Guard crews suspended the search Monday evening for a Seattle-based fishing vessel missing in Alaska's Bering Sea since Saturday.
“The decision to suspend a search is always difficult and is made with great care and consideration," said Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, Coast Guard 17th District commander, in a release.
The decision was made after the Coast Guard had coordinated 21 search parties that covered 5,730 square nautical miles for three days. Meanwhile, a memorial of flowers and messages was growing at Fisherman's Terminal in Seattle for the crew and their families.
On Tuesday, the owners of the Destination shared the following message:
The owners of the DESTINATION understand that the Coast Guard has suspended its search for the DESTINATION and her crew. We thank the Coast Guard, all of the Good Samaritan vessels, and people of St. George Island who worked so long and hard to try to find our crew. These efforts were in the finest tradition of the sea.
These men were professionals. Our hearts are broken for their loved ones who are now left with the certainty of this tragic sinking. We will work with the Coast Guard to attempt to understand what occurred with the hope that whatever can be learned will be used to help prevent such an event from happening again.
Please keep these men and their families in your prayers.
The Coast Guard received an emergency electronic signal from the 98-foot crab boat Destination Saturday morning near St. George, about 650 miles west of Kodiak, Alaska. Search crews arrived a few hours later and having been searching since for the boat and its six-member crew.
While Coast Guard officials have not released the names of the crew, family members have confirmed to KING 5 three members: 46-year-old Charles Glenn Jones, 29-year-old Kai Hamik and 55-year-old Larry O’Grady.
Jones is a father of three from Belfair. His wife, Rosalie, said she spoke to him six hours before the emergency beacon went off Saturday morning. She said the vessel was well-maintained and the crew was experienced.
Hamik's family and girlfriend are waiting for word from the coast guard in Anchorage, Alaska. They tell us that he was the ship's cook and also maintained the hydraulics. He had been in the commercial fishing business since he was 14.
O'Grady's wife, Gail, shared some photos of him from their home in Poulsbo, where they have lived for almost 30 years.
Debbie Lindgren, a longtime neighbor, said it has been difficult to be hopeful.
"When you hear there was never a mayday signal, when you hear they haven't found much of anything, when you know they can only survive 13 hours in their survival suits, the family is connecting a lot of dots," said Lindgren.
Coast Guard officials do not know if the vessel sank, but searchers spotted a debris field containing buoys, a life ring with the vessel's name on it, and a small oil sheen in the area.
Multiple teams from various regions have joined the search effort on water, land, and air. The Morgenthau, a 378-foot high endurance cutter homeported in Honolulu, Hawaii, joined the search Sunday morning, along with an Air Station Kodiak HC-130 Hercules airplane crew and two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews. A C-130 transport plane joined the search on Monday.
St. George residents were also searching for any crew members on shore.
A Coast Guard officer on a high-endurance cutter says Bering Sea fishing vessels at this time of year face hazards from large waves to icing that can upset a boat's balance.
Lt. Brenden Kelley, an operations officer and navigator on the 378-foot cutter Monroe, says mariners pay close attention to wind and waves and can use sophisticated tools to determine how much ice may be accumulating on their boats. Ice can make the vessels top-heavy.
KING 5's Elisa Hahn, Liza Javier and Associated Press contributed to this report.
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