After nearly three days, the U.S. Coast Guard has called off the search for six fishermen missing since Saturday, when their crabbing vessel disappeared in the Bering Sea.
Coast Guard officials made the announcement Monday night, after search parties found no sign of the F/V Destination -- apart from a floating tangle of debris that included the boat’s emergency beacon, several buoys, and a life ring.
The 98-foot vessel was on its way to fish for snow crab Saturday morning when it activated its locator beacon two miles northwest of St. George Island.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Shawn Eggert said a cutter, five air crews, and several volunteer vessels responded to the distress signal, searching more than 5,700 square nautical miles with no luck.
“We really don’t know what happened out there," he said. "So we can’t assume the vessel sank, how that may have happened, or what may have happened to this crew.”
Eggert said the Coast Guard has opened an investigation into the cause of the incident.
If investigators determine the crew didn’t survive, the loss of the Destination will be Alaska’s deadliest commercial fishing accident since 2008, when the F/V Katmai sank in the Amchitka Pass on its way to Unalaska.
Seven of the Katmai’s 11 crew members died in a severe storm after the vessel lost steering power and took on water.
Owners of the Destination say their boat was in good condition at the time of its disappearance. Michael Barcott is the attorney representing the vessel’s principal owner -- David Wilson, a fisherman from Sand Point who now lives in Washington.
Barcott said the owners don’t know what happened the Destination either.
“We’ll be working with the Coast Guard to try to sort that out, but right now it’s a mystery," he said. "Everyone’s thoughts and prayers are with the families of the crew.”
The Coast Guard and the Destination’s owners have declined to the name the lost crew members until their families have been consulted.