Coast Guard aircrew rescues hunter after vessel sinks in Three Saints Bay, Alaska

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak recover a life raft during a law enforcement patrol near Three Saints Bay, Alaska, Sept. 18, 2019. A hunter had been rescued from the life raft the previous day after his vessel sunk in the bay. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Air Station Kodiak.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak recover a life raft during a law enforcement patrol near Three Saints Bay, Alaska, Sept. 18, 2019. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Air Station Kodiak.

KODIAK, Alaska — A Coast Guard aircrew rescued a hunter after his vessel sunk in Three Saints Bay, Tuesday.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak hoisted the 37-year-old hunter from a life raft and safely transported him to Kodiak, where he was reported in good health and required no medical care.

Around 9:10 p.m., Coast Guard Sector Anchorage watchstanders received a 406 megahertz emergency position indicating radio beacon notification registered to the fishing vessel Sara Jean, a 61-foot fishing tender, in the vicinity of Three Saints Bay. Watchstanders attempted to reach anyone aboard the vessel over the VHF radio and through contact information in the registration information, as well as issued an urgent marine information broadcast, but received no response.


The helicopter crew launched and located the life raft. While the aircrew was in the search area and conducting the hoist, communications between the them and watchstanders were lost for approximately 25 minutes.

Three Saints Bay is a known VHF no coverage area.

The hunter reported the vessel was taking on water and simultaneously lost power on the starboard engine. As the owner was troubleshooting the power loss, the vessel began to list and then sunk in approximately 350-feet of water at the entrance to the bay. The fisherman was able to don a survival suit before he entered the water and climbed into the life raft, which automatically deployed using a hydrostatic release.

“His boat went down extremely fast and he was prepared, he did everything right,” said Lt. Megan Peters, aircraft commander on the response. “All of his gear had been properly maintained so that it was in good working order when he needed it.”

The hunter reportedly put out an initial mayday call that went unheard and didn’t have time to attempt a second. He took the EPIRB with him into the life raft, as well as attached a strobe light to the craft.

“The EPIRB registration was up to date, so we knew who and what we were looking for and we were able to hone in on the beacon.”

The hunter used two parachute flares and a smoke flare to further aid the helicopter crew when they got near his position.

“After the swimmer was lowered he did a great job following directions and made for a smooth and efficient hoist,” said Peters. “He made our job extremely easy.”

The vessel sunk with a maximum potential of 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel aboard.

The supervisor of Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Kodiak interviewed the hunter and determined that, as it was a recreational hunting voyage, it was not a reportable marine casualty and Alaska State Troopers have taken over the investigation.

Wednesday, another Air Station Kodiak aircrew spotted the life raft along the shore, landed and recovered it. Raft recovery is not something aircrews normally do, but they did not want the raft to be mistaken for another distress and initiate another search-and-rescue case.

Weather on scene reported as 3-foot high seas, rain and 5 miles of visibility.


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