ANCHORAGE, Alaska – An e-mail sent by a doomed fishing boat to a nearby vessel said it was taking on water in the rear, where the steering was housed, the Coast Guard said Thursday as it searched for two crew members whose fates remained unknown.
It's still not clear what happened aboard the Katmai, which sank early Wednesday in the icy waters off Alaska's Aleutian Islands with a crew of 11 aboard. Four men survived in a life raft, and the bodies of five have been recovered.
"What can you say?" said Jeff DeBell, chief financial officer of Katmai Fisheries, which owned the boat. "We are devastated by what has happened. We are elated there have been survivors. We are just terribly saddened by the ones that are dead and are praying that those that are still in the water are alive."
The Seattle-based company identified the survivors as Capt. Henry Blake and crew members Guy Schroeder, Adam Foster and Harold Appling.
All the crew members were able to get into survival suits, according to members of another fishing vessel in the area that received the e-mail, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Levi Read.
A survival suit can extend the life of people in cold waters, depending on their physical condition, how panicked they are or whether they are in a group or a life raft. Without a suit, death comes quickly.
"If you don't have a survival suit, it can be minutes," Read said.
A search for the other two crew members of the 93-foot Katmai resumed at daybreak Thursday and lasted past sunset, Petty Officer Wes Shinn said Thursday night, adding searchers would start again at dawn on Friday. In two days, the search has ranged over about 3,400 square miles, Shinn said.
The Katmai sank about 1,300 miles southwest of Anchorage as it was headed to port. An electronic distress signal was sent to the Coast Guard about 1 a.m. Wednesday.
The four crew members who survived were found in good condition Wednesday afternoon, after spending about 15 hours floating in the ocean. They were in survival suits and in a life raft.
A Good Samaritan fishing vessel went to the area Wednesday evening to help in the search and found three of the dead, Read said. The dead were found floating in survival suits, but they were not in life rafts.
The Coast Guard recovered one other body from the water, and another Good Samaritan vessel found the other.
The Katmai had been headed toward Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island, 800 miles southwest of Anchorage. It was the company's only ship, DeBell said.
Katmai Fisheries has been in business since 1993, he said. Company officials will travel to Anchorage to meet with the survivors.
The crew members were from Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Montana, he said.