By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
and the Associated Press
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LAPUSH — The Coast Guard has declared the fatal collision of two commercial fishing boats off fog-bound LaPush a “serious marine incident,” and an investigation is under way.
Petty Officer Nathan Bradshaw in Seattle said investigation is being done jointly with Canadian transportation safety officials.
They will be probing how the 90-foot Viking Storm out of Vancouver, B.C., collided with the 40-foot Maverick, with a home port of LaPush.
Kelly Dickerson of Port Angeles is presumed dead after the 4:30 a.m. Friday incident in heavy fog about 30 miles off the coast.
Dickerson's father, 66-year-old Darby Dickerson of Port Angeles, was the owner and captain of the Maverick.
Other surviving crew members were Dennis Bendor and Will Oorstaga.
The Coast Guard said the Maverick sank quickly.
Three of the four people aboard were rescued in good condition within 5 minutes by the crew of the Viking Storm and taken ashore by a Coast Guard lifeboat.
The search for the missing crewman, 32-year-old Dickerson, was called off Saturday.
The Coast Guard suspended the search after factoring-in the water temperature. The water near LaPush was in the upper 40s on Saturday, according to National Weather Service records.
“There wasn't any chance of survival at that point,” Bradshaw said.
Dickerson was in a room in the forward part of the ship when the Maverick sank bow first.
“He was trapped,” Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Denning, chief of marine investigation in Seattle said Monday.
At least one other crew member was trapped as well, but made it out by breaking a window.
The survivors landed in the water without time to put on life jackets or survival suits.
“They narrowly escaped,” Denning said.
The Coast Guard is working cooperatively with the Canadian authorities to conduct the investigation, Bradshaw said.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is handling the investigation there, he added.
The Coast Guard has interviewed crew members and administered drug and alcohol tests. No evidence of alcohol use was found. Drug tests are pending, Denning said.
An investigator also flew to Victoria, and went to Ucluelet on Sunday with Canadian investigators to check the Viking Storm navigation equipment and interview its three crew members.
The Viking Storm did not take on water from the collision.
Bradshaw said the investigation “could take a week or two, or it could take a month or two.”
“That's pretty good range,” he said.
A serious marine incident is the second-most serious classification, the most serious being a “major marine casualty,” which involves at least six deaths and $500,000 in damage, Bradshaw said.
A serious marine incident covers loss of life and a property loss of between $100,000 and $500,000.
The Coast Guard received an emergency beacon signal from the Maverick about the same time the Viking Storm reported the collision.
Coast Guard boats and a helicopter looked for more than a day before the search was suspended.
The Maverick, which was registered in Seattle, had been out fishing for black cod.
The Viking Storm had a full load of hagfish caught in Canadian waters that it was taking to Grays Harbor. It was traveling between 8 mph and 10 mph, Denning said.
Both vessels had radar operating.
“Fog was a significant factor,” Denning said,
“Visibility was certainly an issue.”
The Maverick had 500 gallons of diesel on board, two gallons of gasoline and six gallons of lube oil.
None of it could be recovered because the vessel sank in 1,600 feet of water, said Lt. j.g. Chelsey Olson of the incident management division.
The Coast Guard notified Olympic National Park, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and the Hoh, Quinault and Quileute tribes of the possible pollution.
The goal of the Coast Guard investigation is to make safety recommendations that would prevent a similar collision from happening again, Denning said.
There's also a possibility of civil penalties or criminal sanctions.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.