The seven crew members of the Scandies Rose faced 20-foot seas, icing and strong winds as their 130-foot crab boat took on water off the coast of southwest Alaska around 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Crewman Dean Gribble Jr. feared the worst.
“I have fished for 20 years. I know that you don’t make it. Everyone dies in those situations. And I knew that’s what we were going into,” Gribble, a Washington-based crabber, said in a brief YouTube video he posted Thursday, but removed Friday from public view.
Gribble and a second crew member, John Lawler, were hoisted from a life raft by a Coast Guard helicopter at about 2 a.m. Wednesday. Five other crew — captain Gary Cobban Jr.; his son, David Cobban; Brock Rainey; Arthur Ganacias; and Seth Rousseau-Gano — were not found. A search was called off Wednesday evening.
An investigation is underway into what led to the sinking.
Dan Mattsen, the boat’s co-owner, said he has been interviewed by investigators. Mattsen said he will cooperate fully, and is eager to understand what went wrong.
“It is just mind-blowing that the Scandies Rose would sink,” Mattsen said of the boat that has been in the crab fishery for decades.
The crew got off a mayday distress signal Tuesday night.
The boat went down fast, Gribble said. It started listing “really hard” on the starboard side and he went from “sleeping to swimming in about 10 minutes.”
Gribble, who lives in Edmonds, said the crew did everything they could to get out. “I just wish the other guys would have made it,” he said on the video. “I feel bad now that I’m here and they’re not … Send some love to their families.”
Gribble and Lawler, of Alaska, were taken to a hospital on Kodiak Island. Gribble is now back in Washington, according to his father, Dean Gribble Sr., a captain on another crab boat that fishes off Alaska.
Gribble told his father that he and Lawler were knocked off the boat by a wave. They both had survival suits on that helped protect them from the frigid waters. They made it to the life raft, which was released from the Scandies Rose as the boat went down, the elder Gribble said. A second raft was spotted by Coast Guard crews, but it was empty.
Crew member Gribble said on the video that the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), an emergency transmitter that sends signals to help rescuers find a vessel in distress, did not go off. The failure was among what he called “a lot of issues” with safety equipment on the Scandies Rose.
A Coast Guard official, Chief Petty Officer Matthew Schofield, confirmed Friday that no EPIRB signal was picked up by the Coast Guard helicopters and planes that searched for survivors.
Scott Wilwert, an Alaska-based Coast Guard fishing-vessel safety examiner, said the Scandies Rose had a valid sticker denoting it had passed a mandatory safety examination in a previous year.
More recently, the boat went through a shorter safety check last fall before leaving for the Bristol Bay king crab harvest. Coast Guard inspectors reviewed the vessel’s loading procedures as well as safety equipment. At that time, the EPIRB was tested and operating properly, Wilwert said.
“They were in compliance,” Wilwert said.
No Coast Guard safety checks were required, according to Wilwert, before the Scandies Rose left Kodiak this week to begin a season of cod and crab fishing in the Bering Sea farther to the west.
The crew of the Scandies Rose, drawn largely from Alaska and Washington, included veterans of the Alaska crab industry with decades of fishing experience.
Art Ganacias, the ship’s 50-year-old engineer who is now missing, lived in recent years in the Puget Sound region. But he spent much of his time in Alaska, where he had been involved in fishing since his boyhood days growing up in the community of Sand Point.
His friend Jakob Taunton said Ganacias loved to tell fishing tales, and seemed more at home at sea than on land. “He was one of the most easiest-going guys I had ever worked with. He never got excited,” said Taunton, an Oregon-based crabber who worked with Ganacias in 2016 and 2017 aboard another boat, the Bering Hunter.
Ganacias had lots of experience with the perils of his livelihood.
As a young man, he was on a fishing boat that went down in the Bering Sea, he once told Taunton and the skipper of the Bering Hunter, Ray Flerchinger.
Ganacias said he ended up in the water, and other crew members died, according to Taunton and Flerchinger.
In February 2017, Ganacias faced rough seas and freezing spray at the tail end of the Bering Hunter’s snow crab season, and Taunton took a picture of the engineer chipping away at heavy ice buildup on the boat near the Pribilof Island of St. George.
The day after that photo was taken, another crab boat, the Seattle-based Destination, went down, killing six crew.
The Destination sinking triggered a formal Marine Board of Investigation, the highest level of Coast Guard inquiry that results in safety recommendations being submitted to the commandant.
Coast Guard officials have not announced whether the Scandies Rose inquiry will involve a Marine Board.
The National Transportation Safety Board also has yet to make any announcements about a Scandies Rose investigation.