Alaska Ranger Sinking Investigation to Continue Thursday

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 today in the San Juan-Whidbey Room of the Red Lion Hotel at 1415 5th Ave.

The goal of the Marine Board is to identify the causal events of the casualty and provide recommendations to prevent or mitigate future casualties.

The board heard testimony from David Hull, Jeremy Freitag and Ryan Shuck today. Hull, Freitag and Shuck are all survivors of the Alaska Ranger tragedy and provided valuable insight into the events that may have led to the sinking of the vessel.

Hull, a lead crewmember aboard the Alaska Ranger, testified to being awakened by another crewmember and informed the boat was in danger. He stated that he and other crewmembers deployed rafts and abandoned ship shortly after the boat listed violently to its side. When the fishing vessel Alaska Warrior arrived 2-3 hours later, Hull and others clambered aboard and assisted with the rescue of other members of the Alaska Ranger’s crew. Aboard the Alaska Warrior, Hull and others administered CPR to three of the Alaska Ranger’s crewmembers including the vessel’s captain, Eric Peter Jacobsen of Lynwood, Wash. Jacobsen and the two other men died before further help could arrive. Hull also testified the Alaska Ranger operated in ice earlier in the year, and provided the board with photos of the conditions.

Freitag worked in the galley as a steward aboard the vessel. Freitag woke to the sound of an alarm and hurried to put on his survival suit. When the vessel listed, its power went out and three members of its crew, near Freitag, slipped into the water. Freitag and another crewmember made their way to the bow of the ship and jumped into the ocean in order to swim to a nearby raft. Freitag and the other crewmembers in the raft were eventually rescued by the fishing vessel Warrior.

Shuck was a processor aboard the Alaska Ranger who also was responsible for tallying the vessel’s catch. After abandoning the Alaska Ranger, Shuck was unable to reach any of the rafts and spent approximately three hours in the water before a Coast Guard helicopter crew arrived to rescue him. While in the water, Shuck saw the Alaska Ranger sink below the waves, its lights flickering briefly before it went under. Shuck confirmed that the vessel was underway in ice earlier in the year.

All three men claimed to have seen evidence of alcohol aboard the vessel on past trips despite the Fishing Company of Alaska’s (FCA) strict zero-tolerance policy. They also claimed to have concerns over the safety of the vessel.

The hearing will continue at 10 a.m. Thursday 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.

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