Board Hears 2nd Day of Testimony in Alaska Ranger Casualty

DUTCH HARBOR, Alaska – The Marine Board of Investigation into the Alaska Ranger casualty heard more testimony from the crew of the Alaska Ranger today.

The board questioned Rodney Lundy, Second Assistant Engineer of the Alaska Ranger. An emotional Lundy detailed the routine on the vessel, the sinking and his rescue.

Lundy has been sailing on the Alaska Ranger most recently since 2001. He also served on the Alaska Warrior. He’s been commercial fishing for 30 years. Lundy went into specifics about the layout of the ship and the sequence of events.

Lundy said in testimony that he was on watch when a high water alarm went off. “It was 2 o’clock because I was recording in my chlorine log,” said Lundy.

When the alarm sounded he checked the alarm panel that indicated the trouble was in the rudder room. After arriving at the rudder room door he said he saw water coming up through the deck plates. He did not enter the room but while studying it the water began to rise quickly so Lundy closed the rudder room door quickly using the wheel in the center of the door and went back to his desk to call the bridge.

“I didn’t want to drown,” said Lundy. “First thing in my mind was close that door.”

David Silveira, on the bridge, answered the call and Lundy told him to sound the general alarm. When Silveira asked why Lundy replied, “major flooding.” Then Lundy called the chief engineer, Daniel Cook.

After closing the door and calling the bridge, the chief engineer and one of the technicians, Makoto Oide, came down. Cook looked around for a moment and then gave the order to abandon ship. Oide stayed with Lundy while Lundy shut down power to the hydraulic area to prevent electrocution and used a sledge hammer to thoroughly dog the hatch to the rudder room to prevent any leakage.

Lundy went next to the factory deck and looked in the shop on the starboard side located aft.  According to Lundy’s testimony there was six inches of water in that space and water had reached the top of the coaming in the ramp room.

In the ramp room are two high-powered transformers, 480 volts each, behind the workbench. Water was lapping around the base of the transformers and they had started “popping” said Lundy. These transformers supply power to the house and the bridge.

Lundy told Oide to go and they both evacuated the space and closed the watertight door (between the shop and the ramp room) behind them but did not dog it. “I didn’t want to get electrocuted,” said Lundy. They did close the starboard door between the factory and the shop and dogged it. This time Oide had the sledge said Lundy.

Lundy and Oide went up to the bridge to muster. The other crew was there and the boat was still riding level. The crew had their survival suits at least partly donned except for Lundy and the master.

Lundy said David Silveira was radioing a mayday to the Coast Guard. He told the master “We’re fixing to lose power.” And about five minutes later they did.

Lundy was assigned to the number two life raft. After taking a starboard list the life rafts were launched. Lundy said the vessel was leaning so hard to starboard the painter line snapped.

With his survival suit fully donned Lundy moved forward on the bow and he jumped and slid off the boat into the water. Two Japanese crewmen in the life raft pulled him into the raft and he waited for rescue. The whole event seemed to take about an hour and a half.

Lundy’s raft was rescued by the crew of the Alaska Warrior. “The Warrior did an excellent, excellent job,” said Lundy.

The board was focused on understanding the progression of events and where the water came from. When directly asked where he thought the water came from Lundy said, “We didn’t know. Captain and the mate asked me that. I couldn’t get back there (the rudder room) to see where the water was coming from.”

The board also took testimony from Chris Cossich, the boatswain on the Alaska Ranger. Cossich had been on board the vessel for several years and is a qualified drill instructor (safety).

According to Cossich he was just going to bed when the alarm sounded. He headed up to the pilothouse and was told the rudder room was flooding. He and Evan Holmes went down below on the starboard side and saw water knee high in the ramp room and the tool room. He and Holmes went through the ramp room to get a dewatering pump that was kept next to the workbench in the shop. They began to set it up outside the shop. Another crewman, Indio Sol ran the discharge hose out the watertight door. The suction hose was put into the water covering the shop floor. They were directed to abandon ship by Lundy before they started up the pump.

They mustered with the crew and donned survival suits. While mustered they rotated in and out of the pilothouse three at a time to stay warm while they waited for further instruction.

Cossich was told they might loose power. After they did he said the boat slowly stopped moving forward and then started traveling backwards. He said he could tell because the wake shifted. The mate and the captain were driving. After power was lost he said the boat took a list to starboard.

The captain, Pete Jacobsen, told them to abandon ship. He launched his raft. He, like Lundy, said the painter line broke. Instead of going next to the Jacob’s ladders the rafts shot forward by the bow because the ship was making stern way.

Cossich observed waves breaking over the stern of the vessel on the starboard side that washed netting off the deck. Several times the stern was submerged but it returned to the surface. He said he saw that happen only after they lost power and started running backwards.

Cossich entered the water and swam to the raft. “We kept yelling for people to get in the raft.” He said Sol actually followed their yells and swam to the raft.

He said he was in the raft with a radio when captain came over the radio and said he was abandoning ship. That was the last time he heard the captain’s voice.

According to Cossich the Coast Guard helicopter came overhead and told them to zip up the life raft and stay put while they rescued people in the water.

The next time they unzipped the raft Alaska Warrior was there to rescue them. The crew of the Alaska Warrior used their crane (also called a cherry picker) and boarding ladder to recover survivors.

In the interest of getting testimony and allowing crewmembers to return home the board will re-convene at 9 a.m. Sunday morning and take half a day of testimony. The afternoon will be spent digesting the information gathered so far. The board needs time to review the information gathered so far and prepare for the next witnesses.

NOTE: In Saturday’s press conference it was stated that there were 36 processors onboard the Alaska Ranger. There were actually 23. There are 36 on the Alaska Warrior. No additional press conferences have been scheduled at this time.

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