Formal hearing begins into the sinking of the F/V Scandies Rose
JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Formal hearings have begun into the sinking of the F/V Scandies Rose in 2019 that left five fishermen presumed dead.
Over the next two weeks, the Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigation will hear from around 43 witnesses to study the cause of the sinking. The board will also provide recommendations for how to improve safety and prevent similar incidents.
On New Year’s Eve of 2019, the F/V Scandies Rose was traveling from Kodiak to Dutch Harbor when it sank quickly in bad weather off the coast of Sutwik Island, southwest of Kodiak. The boat was headed to fish for cod before continuing on to go crabbing. Five people were presumed dead, including Gary Cobban, the ship’s captain, and his son David Cobban.
Two crew members were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard hours later.
The board, operating from Seattle, will look into whether icing was a factor in the ship’s sinking. Icing and overloading were determined to be the cause of the loss of the F/V Destination in the Bering Sea in 2017.
The condition of the F/V Scandies Rose, and how it was operated, will also be investigated. The board is not looking to cast blame for the incident.
The Seattle Times reported that a $9 million settlement paid from insurance was reached in November between the two survivors, family members of the four crew members and the F/V Scandies Rose’s owners. The Seattle Times reported that a separate settlement process was underway in November for family members of the boat’s captain, Gary Cobban, who was also a co-owner of the boat.
Dean Gribble and Jon Lawler, the two survivors of the sinking, raised questions in federal court before the settlement about the seaworthiness of the ship, particularly with rusting to a chute on its starboard side.
Daniel Mattsen, a co-owner of the F/V Scandies Rose with Cobban, spoke to the board on Monday. He was aware of those rusting concerns, which had been flagged by Cobban, and said there had initially been a poor weld job that had needed to be re-done.
He had been told by Cobban that the F/V Scandies Rose had been carrying 192 crab pots when it sank, fewer than its limit of 208 pots.
Mattsen, an experienced fisherman in Alaska, said that the comfort levels of captains sailing during conditions that are prone to icing depend on a myriad of factors including the length of a trip, how many crab pots are being carried and the vessel itself. He said that regulations on icing in the Bering Sea are “totally unrealistic” as they assume much lower build-up of ice than is often seen by fishermen.
The two weeks of hearings will be live streamed. A report into the incident that determines a likely cause of the sinking could take around 12 months before it is publicly available.
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