DISASTERS

'Deadliest Catch' stars know hope is running out for lost colleagues

Colburn has lost friends at sea before.

Colburn has lost friends at sea before.  (Discovery)

News that a crab fishing boat went down on the Bering Sea Saturday stunned the close-knit community that spawned the hit show “Deadliest Catch” and, for members of its cast, the reality that six of their colleagues are likely gone has set in.

Late Monday, the Coast Guard suspended its search for the crew of the 100-foot fishing vessel Destination, and Capt. Keith Colburn, one of the stars of the Discovery channel show, told Fox News he knows their chances of survival are slim.

“It’s a miracle if someone gets out alive.”

- Capt. Keith Colburn

"You don’t want to give up hope, but the reality is that, an instantaneous capsizing -- the survival rates are less than 1 percent,” Colburn said. “It’s a miracle if someone gets out alive.”

"Deadliest Catch" features crews that fish for crabs on the rugged Bering Sea, charting their successes and failures and spotlighting the dangers of the job.

The Seattle-based Destination, which was not featured on the show, vanished early Saturday after a radio beacon sent an emergency signal from 2 miles off St. George Island, off the western coast of Alaska.

A search for the boat and its crew members -- identified as Charles Glenn Jones, Larry O'Grady, Raymond Vincler, Darrik Seibold, Kai Hamik and Jeff Hathaway -- proved fruitless.

Colburn said he heard about the missing vessel from Sig Hansen, who captains The Northwestern on “Deadliest Catch.”

Hansen told Fox News the two crews are "extremely close." 

“Jeff has been a close friend for the past 23 years. He’s a true leader and not a follower. I’ve learned a lot from him and know for a fact that he is calm under pressure,” Hansen said. “When the Northwestern hit the beach a few years ago, there was only one boat in the area that had a tow. I was in a state of panic and thought we were done. It was Jeff who walked me through this ordeal on what to do over the radio. I did exactly what he told me and sure enough, the stern came around and we got off the beach. It’s what saved us.”

Colburn, who considered Destination’s captain, Jeff Hathaway, and engineer, Larry O’Grady, close friends for more than 25 years, told Fox News that if anyone survived, the Coast Guard would have found them. Even in survival suits, the waterproof suits fishermen wear to protect them from hypothermia in case they go overboard, rescue must come quickly.

“A window of life is 18 or 20 hours -- that window of life evaporated very quickly,” Colburn told Fox News. “You’ve got a very good, safety-conscious crew on a really good boat, and something catastrophic happened."

The U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska issued a statement on Monday night announcing the suspension of the search. “We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the six crew members during this extremely difficult time,” Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, Coast Guard 17th District commander said in a statement. “The decision to suspend a search is always difficult and is made with great care and consideration.”

The Coast Guard coordinated 21 searches, totaling more than 69 aircraft and surface hours and covering approximately 5,730 square miles. The cause of the incident is still under investigation. For Colburn, Hansen and the others who risk their lives at sea to put food on America’s tables, the fate of their peers is only the latest reminder of the aptness of the reality show’s name.

"This is a warning to never get complacent -- to always be vigilant at sea,” Colburn told Fox News. “The grand sea is a very wicked place to work -- my heartfelt condolences to the families and the children associated with the boat. We’re going to miss them.”

Hansen said whatever happened to the ship "must have happened extremely fast." 

"If there was trouble, he would have notified someone of any impeding danger," he said. "I just don’t see this as human error.”

Brooke Singman is a Politics Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.