Marine Board of Investigation hearing into Alaska Ranger sinking to end Tuesday

SEATTLE – The Coast Guard (USCG) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Marine Board of Investigation into the March 23 sinking of the Alaska Ranger reconvened here today in the San Juan-Whidbey Room of the Red Lion Hotel at 1415 5th Ave.

The board heard testimony from Eli Bjornoy, Ken Smith and Martin Teachout.

Eli Bjornoy, an insurance claims adjuster for the Polaris Group, testified to having conversations with survivors of the Alaska Ranger sinking about the offering of settlements for their losses, injuries and other grievances. According to Bjornoy’s testimony, some members of the surviving crew turned down the offer, opting to go forward with lawsuits against Fishing Company of Alaska (FCA). David Hull, who gave testimony April 16, countered the offer with a request for $100,000 citing evidence he could bring to trial.

Ken Smith, a survivor of the Alaska Ranger sinking, spent nearly an hour alone in the water with a broken emergency light before seeing the vessel go under. He finally managed to find two other crewmembers and held onto them until a Coast Guard helicopter arrived to pull them from the water. Smith lost consciousness twice before being lifted into the helicopter along with several other crewmembers. Smith also testified that in March, Capt. Steve Slotvig and the fishmaster argued over the rate of speed the vessel was traveling through the ice.

Martin Teachout, a Coast Guard vessel inspector who gave his initial testimony April 17, returned to clarify his previous testimony and answer new questions pertaining to the inspection of the Alaska Ranger during its stay in Japan.

The hearing will continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the same location, and is open to the public and the media. The proceedings will not be broadcast on television, radio or conference call. Video recording devices including still cameras are prohibited for the duration of the hearing. Cell phones are prohibited at all times. The use of unobtrusive audio recording devices is permitted to document the proceedings.

Press releases will be sent out during the hearings notifying media of conference and interview schedules.

The witness list for Tuesday will include a naval architect who witnessed the inclining of the ship in 2005 and the mate on watch of the Alaska Spirit who spoke with the Alaska Ranger shortly before the sinking.

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