Coast Guard Suspends Search for 3 People Missing After Boat Capsizes Off Alaska

    by Sidney Hunt
    Published: May 24, 2024 (3 weeks ago)

    The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended its search for three individuals who went missing after a fishing boat capsized off the coast of Alaska. The decision comes after an exhaustive 72-hour search effort that covered more than 1,500 square miles in the frigid waters of the Bering Sea.

    The ill-fated vessel, the F/V Northern Star, was reported overdue on Tuesday evening after it failed to return to port in Dutch Harbor. The boat, a 58-foot commercial fishing vessel, was carrying a crew of five when it encountered severe weather conditions, leading to its capsizing. Two crew members were rescued by a nearby fishing boat, but the remaining three have not been found.

    Captain Michael Davidson of the Coast Guard District 17 provided an update at a press conference in Anchorage. “With a heavy heart, we have made the difficult decision to suspend the search for the missing crew members of the Northern Star. Despite our best efforts and the extensive search operations conducted by air and sea, we have not found any signs of the missing individuals.”

    The Coast Guard’s search operation involved multiple aircraft, including MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters and HC-130 Hercules planes, as well as cutters and local fishing vessels that assisted in the search. Crews battled harsh weather conditions, including high winds, rough seas, and freezing temperatures, which complicated the rescue efforts.

    The names of the missing crew members have not been released to the public, pending notification of their families. The two survivors, who were wearing survival suits when they were rescued, were treated for hypothermia and other minor injuries. They have since been released from the hospital and are cooperating with authorities to provide information about the incident.

    Preliminary reports suggest that the Northern Star may have been overwhelmed by a sudden storm that produced waves up to 20 feet high. The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are conducting a joint investigation to determine the exact cause of the capsizing.

    “We are committed to finding answers for the families and understanding what led to this tragic event,” said NTSB spokesperson Jennifer Hooper. “Our investigation will examine all factors, including the weather conditions, the vessel’s condition, and the actions taken by the crew.”

    The Alaskan fishing community, known for its tight-knit nature, has been deeply affected by the tragedy. Vigils and memorial services are being organized in Dutch Harbor and other fishing towns to honor the missing crew members. Local fishermen are also planning a fundraising effort to support the families of those lost.

    Governor Mike Dunleavy expressed his condolences in a statement released on Thursday. “My heart goes out to the families and friends of the missing crew members of the Northern Star. This is a stark reminder of the dangers our fishermen face every day. We are grateful to the Coast Guard and all who participated in the search and rescue efforts.”

    As the community mourns, attention now turns to improving safety measures to prevent similar tragedies in the future. Advocates are calling for better weather forecasting tools, enhanced training for crew members, and stricter safety regulations for fishing vessels operating in Alaskan waters.

    The suspension of the search marks a somber end to a valiant effort by the Coast Guard and the local community. While hope for finding the missing crew members alive has dimmed, the resolve to support their families and improve maritime safety remains steadfast.