The crabber who skippered the boat remains missing.
Searchers in Willapa Bay on Tuesday found what may be the sunken boat of a southwest Washington Dungeness crab fishermen who went missing on Saturday, according to Coast Guard officials.
The large object was detected in about 40 feet of water near where debris was sighted, and a dive is scheduled Wednesday to identify the object. It is not known whether the skipper, Kevin Soule, fell overboard or might have gone into the water as the boat went down.
“They found it about 1,000 yards from where crab pots piled up,” according to Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Madjeska, who coordinates search-and-rescue missions for Coast Guard Sector Columbia River.
The investigation will continue into what might have gone wrong on a relatively calm day on the bay.
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The search for Soule began Saturday afternoon after his wife reported him late to return from a trip to harvest crab in his 43-foot boat.
The search covered the whole bay, beginning at 3:30 p.m. and extending until midday Sunday. It involved a Coast Guard helicopter, a Coast Guard cutter, two smaller Coast Guard boats as well as a boat from the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office, according to Madjeska.
A life ring was recovered, and a fuel slick was spotted. But there was no sign of Soule.
The Chinook Observer reports that Soule is part of a multigenerational fishing family in Southwest Washington. He is married to Heather Unruh Soule, manager of Long Beach KeyBank, and they have two daughters, ages 10 and 6.
A federal National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study of the West Coast commercial fleet found eight Dungeness crab crew died between 2010 and 2014, which was the highest number of fatalities of any fleet in the region.
During the current Dungeness crab season that began this winter, Coast Guard Sector Columbia River has responded to several crab boats that were either disabled or taking on water, according to Madjeska.
Also, a Dungeness crabber died in February off California after falling overboard.