Third Day of Testimony in Alaska Ranger Sinking

DUTCH HARBOR, Alaska – The Marine Board of Investigation into the Alaska Ranger sinking began Sunday’s testimony by interviewing crewman Julio Morales of California.

Morales was a processor in the factory and had served with the Alaska Ranger less than a month. “We work a lot of hours,” said Morales. His typical day consisted of six hours in the factory, a half hour lunch break, and another six hours in the factory and then six hours off.

According to Morales’ testimony he was in his bunk when the alarm sounded. He didn’t recognize the alarm and didn’t think it was an emergency until his cousin, Marco Carrillo came in and told him to get out of his bunk. Morales went to the galley and was ordered to the wheelhouse to don his survival suit.

Morales said he did not have trouble donning his suit but that there were holes in it – at the seam in the left wrist and he felt water in the leg as soon as he entered the water.

“I saw my cousin, the one who is deceased with his hair all over his face,” said Morales. “I told him to get his hair in the suit.” That cousin was Byron Carrillo. This was Byron’s first trip out on the vessel.

“My suit was the right size,” said Morales. He did mention Samasoni Fa’aulu, a large build crewman, had a hard time putting his suit on. Morales did see him with a fully donned suit at the end. Morales reported that there were several different styles of survival suits on board.

He also made specific mention that he observed the fish master, Satoshi Konno, on the bridge with his survival suit only partially donned, smoking a cigarette. He said Konno was very calm. “He didn’t seem in a hurry to save his own life,” said Morales.

Morales did not see Konno in the water. Coast Guard rescuers searched for Konno for several days but he remains missing.

After putting his suit on in the wheelhouse he stood outside by life raft number one. He said the crew rotated through wheelhouse for warmth but that the deck was slippery on the bow and they held onto each other to steady themselves.

“It was all white covered,” he said. Morales stated he thought the ice may have been two inches thick and it covered the deck and rails.

While on the deck outside the wheelhouse he could see the trawl deck. He saw water washing over the deck and water on top of the deck where the nets were on trawl deck after the vessel began to list to starboard about 10 degrees. Morales said that shortly after water began to wash over the trawl deck the vessel rolled and did not right itself. Morales said the power went out after that.

Morales saw several crew slide down the line from the vessel to life raft number one. “I was afraid to do that,” said Morales. He said he had had training on how to put his suit on but not what to do in the water.

Morales went directly into the water by sliding down the vessel. According to his testimony he was in the water with the chief engineer, Daniel Cook, Juan Barrios and Mark Hagerman, the cook. He said he could smell alcohol on Cook. He also said Cook was having heart trouble.

“He was screaming my heart, my heart,” said Morales.

Morales never made it to a life raft. In the water he watched the ship sink below the waves.

“I could see the bow side close to me,” he said. “I was afraid it would take me down with it.”

The Coast Guard helicopter came overhead. “They took Juan first,” said Morales.

Then the helicopter crew dropped a raft and Morales, Fa’aulu, and Hagerman climbed in. The rescue swimmer stayed with them. Another helicopter came overhead and hoisted each of them independently.

Morales said the Coast Guard took Fa’aulu and Hagerman. “I was the last to get in the helicopter,” he said.

Once in the helicopter the rescue swimmer returned with David Silveira.

“I could tell he was dead,” said Morales. “They (Coast Guard) laid him down and put a blanket on his face.” Morales mentioned he saw cuts in the legs of the suit Silveira was wearing.

Then they were taken to the Coast Guard Cutter Munro. Each man was lowered to the deck. Morales got out of the basket under his own power.

He said the crew of the Munro put warm towels on him. “I was shaking so much,” he said. “I didn’t feel I was alive. I was shaking to the point I couldn’t stop it. You guys treated me very well and I appreciate that.”

After detailing the events and his rescue the board questioned Morales further about drinking on board.

Morales indicated there was drinking on the boat “between the Japanese people and others.” He said he and his friends were concerned about the drinking.

“Most of the Japanese people don’t talk to us, culture or something, but when they were drinking they were more friendly.”

Morales said he was aware of two of the Japanese crew drinking.

On the first trip, while fishing for Yellowfin Tuna, Morales said the “Fish Master was next to me while I was sorting fish and I could smell heavy alcohol on his breath.”

Morales said another crewman had been fired on the previous trip for drinking and screaming at crew. He said on board the vessel he never saw any bottles but did see people drinking out of small cups and the contents smelled like alcohol.

Morales also mentioned he was offered alcohol by Juan Barrios and Alex Ueatari in celebration of Barrios birthday, March 30, while they were transiting to the Mackerel fishing grounds. He declined.

“I only drink beer,” said Morales. “No hard alcohol.”

He was not aware of any drug use on the Alaska Ranger.

Morales was the first witness the lawyers for Fishing Company of Alaska chose to question.

Initially they asked questions about his health and condition. The lawyers tried to confirm whether or not Morales planned to make a claim against the company. When asked by the board what bearing this had on the casualty the lawyers said they wanted to establish the credibility of the witness.

They proceeded to ask questions about the drinking onboard that Morales referenced, the casualty and the condition of his suit.

Following Morales testimony he was released to return home but remains under subpoena. James Madruga was recalled to allow the board to clarify some points and ask a few additional questions.

Following those questions Madruga was released from the subpoena but was asked to be reachable at the address he provided the board.

The board will reconvene Monday at 9 a.m.

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One Comment

  1. patrick vail says:

    alcohol/drugs has no bussiness what so ever being on a fishing vessel, especially when it plays a major role in the sinking of the vessel. the boat could have been saved if its crew wasnt intoxicated and the captain or first mate made the correct decisions about the alarms in the wheelhouse. it is a sad day when lose of life is due to alcohol/drug are involved. i believe those that are alive and were responsible for the alcohol being aboard that vessel should face manslaughter charges. the familys of the ones that were lost now must pay the full price of what these few men did just to intoxify themselves and that is not fair to them. this is just a really sad day for everyone, i hope this panel can hand down a feirce ruling and put a hurting on those responsible.