5 people rescued from life raft after vessel sinks southwest of Unalaska

Five people were rescued safely from a life raft in the Bering Sea Friday, after their fishing vessel sank about 40 miles southwest of Unalaska.

The F/V Pacific 1 first signaled its distress to another commercial fishing vessel, the F/V Kona Kai, which relayed the message to the U.S. Coast Guard.

“It was reported to be taking on water and listing heavily with five people aboard,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Dean.

Dean said the Coast Guard launched two helicopter crews from Cold Bay to search for the Pacific 1. By the time they arrived, the vessel had sunk and its crew had abandoned ship.

“The aircrew was able to locate the raft with all five people aboard,” Dean said. “But due to an in-flight problem, they had to deploy a data marker buoy. And then they had to unfortunately return back to the base.”

Dean didn’t specify the helicopter’s problem. But she said the Good Samaritan vessel Kona Kai was close enough to follow the marker buoy it left behind.

The Kona Kai found the raft, brought all five people onboard, and transported them to Unalaska “in good condition.”

Now, Dean said the Coast Guard is trying to figure out why the Pacific 1 sank.

“That is going to be under investigation,” Dean said. “We do not know why the boat went down.”

It appears the Pacific 1’s sinking marks the first vessel loss of the Bering Sea’s winter fishing season, though Dean couldn’t immediately confirm.

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Laura Kraegel covers Unalaska and the Aleutian Islands for KUCB . Originally from Chicago, she first came to Alaska to work at KNOM, reporting on Nome and the Bering Strait Region. (laura@kucb.org / 907.581.6700)