5 Dead, 4 Safe, 2 Missing In Boat Mishap

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Two fisherman were missing Thursday after a fish-processing vessel sank in frigid, stormy seas off a remote Alaskan island chain with an 11-man crew. Five men were killed and four survived.

The search for the two men missing from their ship, the Katmai, was to resume at daybreak Thursday.

A Coast Guard plane and helicopter from Adak as well as an Air National Guard plane and copter were to be used in the search, Petty Officer Wes Shinn said.

The search began early Wednesday when an emergency signal was received from the Katmai. Another vessel reported the Katmai had radioed it was taking on water in a stern compartment as it headed toward Dutch Harbor with a load of cod.

U.S. Coast Guard rescuers pulled the survivors from a life raft about 15 hours after their ship sent out a distress call early Wednesday morning. The water was 43 degrees.

The crew's survival suits, physical condition, and their efforts to keep one another semi-warm and awake all could have helped them endure, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Levi Read.

"They were in good spirits and in good shape," Read said. "They asked to stay, so they could continue to help with the search."

The four survivors were discovered in the raft near the Amchitka Pass, which links the Bering Sea to the Pacific Ocean about 1,400 miles southwest of Anchorage.

It wasn't clear what happened to the 93-foot Katmai. The Coast Guard received an e-mail from another boat, the Blue Ballard, saying the Katmai had lost steering and was taking on water, Read said.

The Coast Guard received an electronic signal at 1 a.m. from the Katmai. A search helicopter and C-130 airplane were sent from Kodiak, a journey of about 4 1/2 hours. The plane crew spotted two strobe lights in the water and dropped two life rafts. But the searchers had seen no sign of the Katmai or its crew, Read said.

One strobe was attached to an empty survival suit and the other was attached to a floating emergency beacon that can be triggered automatically by contact with water. Vessels are required to carry those devices to signal emergencies and aid searches.

The Coast Guard did not receive a mayday call, but given the boat's remote location, it may not have been heard.

"It's hard to say whether they tried or not," Read said.

At least one fishing vessel arrived to help the Coast Guard with the search, and another was expected. The fishing vessel found one of the two bodies, as well as debris, survival suits, fishing gear, a buoy and a life ring, Read said.

The Coast Guard reported 10- to 15-foot seas in the area, with winds from the north at 34 mph. The area had a mix of rain and snow.

The Katmai was carrying a load of cod and heading toward Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island, Read said. Dutch Harbor is 800 miles southwest of Anchorage.

According to state permit records, the Katmai is owned by Seattle-based Katmai Fisheries. Calls to the company by The Associated Press were not returned.

Jeff Debell, a spokesman for Katmai Fisheries, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that company officials were worried about the families. He did not identify the crew.

The newspaper said the captain, 40-year-old Henry Blake, was identified by his brother, Paul Blake. Paul Blake says Henry had been captain of the Katmai for just a few months but had been fishing his entire adult life. His fate was unknown.

The Seattle Times reported Thursday that the Katmai passed a Coast Guard inspection earlier this year that checked for survival suits and crew emergency training.
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