Coast Guard Investigating Fisherman’s Death

Alameda, CA – The Coast Guard is investigating the death of Santa Cruz based fisherman Paul Wade along with the loss of his 28.5-foot fishing vessel Buona Madre in dense fog off Point Reyes last week. Coast Guard Sector San Francisco investigators are conducting a marine casualty investigation to look into all aspects of the case including: a review of all commercial shipping that passed through the area; weather and sea conditions; the condition of the fishing boat prior to its sinking; Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service and other Coast Guard unit communications records and logs; and any other pertinent information.

“We extend our condolences to the family and friends of Paul Wade,” said Capt. Bill Uberti, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Francisco. “Our investigation will seek to determine the cause of this loss and make recommendations to help avoid similar tragedies in the future.”

A marine casualty investigation is conducted whenever there is a commercial accident on the water that affects a vessel’s seaworthiness or ability to maneuver, specifically: loss of propulsion, steering or power, loss of maneuverability, loss of life or personnel injury beyond first aid, unintentional grounding, collision, or any other accident that results in $25,000 worth of damage to the vessel or its cargo.

Based on preliminary information obtained by the Coast Guard, the 291-foot, Bahamian-flagged freighter Eva Danielsen notified Coast Guard VTS San Francisco at about 5:17 p.m. Friday of a possible collision with another boat in dense fog off Point Reyes. The freighter reported losing radar contact with a vessel that had been operating in its vicinity. Upon notifying the Coast Guard, the Eva Danielsen reported that it had stopped its transit and started searching the area for any signs of distress or collision. Approximately 30 minutes after first reporting the incident, the Eva Danielsen reported to VTS that it found no signs of a collision or vessels in distress. The fishing vessel Marja, which had previously made passing arrangements with the Eva Danielsen, reported by radio that it was safe, that another fishing vessel it observed in the immediate vicinity was intact, and it observed no other radar contacts in the area.

The Coast Guard transmitted an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast requesting all mariners in the area to keep a sharp lookout, report any vessels in distress, and assist if possible upon its initial notification of the incident by the Eva Danielsen. The Coast Guard also prepared to launch a helicopter from Air Station San Francisco and launched a rescue boat at approximately 5:40 p.m. from Station Bodega Bay. A cutter that was on patrol outside the Golden Gate also diverted towards the scene. Based on information provided by the Eva Danielsen, other vessels operating in the area, and other available information, the Coast Guard evaluated the situation as a false alert and recalled its units. The Eva Danielsen was subsequently released to continue its voyage to Portland, Ore., where investigators interviewed members of the crew and collected information necessary for the investigation.

Mr. Wade’s body was discovered Saturday morning, wearing a life jacket, by another fishing boat approximately eight miles off Point Reyes.

Coast Guard investigators in San Francisco and Portland have started gathering information and conducting interviews. The investigation could take several months to complete depending on what investigators discover.

The Coast Guard’s 11th District Office in Alameda is also conducting an administrative internal review of the case. This type of analysis is routinely done to examine the effectiveness of the search and rescue system and determine if policies and procedures were followed or need to be changed to improve emergency response.

The Coast Guard performed a safety inspection of the fishing vessel Buona Madre in February of 2007 and this vessel had a history of regular voluntary dockside exams. During the safety inspection, Buona Madre had the required Category II 406 Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (which does not hydrostatically release), properly outfitted type 1 personal floatation device, with both a whistle and light, and an immersion suit on board. Non-documented vessels less than 36 feet are not required to have survival craft onboard nor are they required to perform monthly emergency drills or have written emergency procedures.

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