Back on Saturday, November 9, 166-foot F/V ALASKA MIST experienced mechanical problems and became adrift about thirty miles of Amak Island, Alaska. Amak Island is located in the Bering Sea, north of the midway part of the Aleutian Chain. At first, the ALASKA MIST 22-member crew used a sea drogue and got a tow line from their sister ship, F/V PAVLOV, to slow their drift. Tugboat RESOLVE PIONEER arrived to help, but then they experienced mechanical problems of their own and had to head to port for repairs. Eventually, ALASKA MIST drifted close enough to shore to secure anchor and await rescue in relative safety. Seas during this time period were five to ten feet with winds of 35mph.
All along, ALASKA MIST crewmembers had kept the Coast Guard apprised of their situation, so the Coast Guard was poised to jump in at this point. Coast Guard Cutter WAESCHE arrived on the scene that Monday, November 11, to begin transferring the non-essential members of the ALASKA MIST. By now, the seas were ten feet with winds of 40 to 46mph.
Unfortunately, during this transfer process, one of the WAESCHE crewmen, Boatswains Mate Third Class Travis Obendorf, was seriously hurt. He had already helped to rescue five ALASKA MIST crew by this time. He was transported by helicopter to Cold Bay and then to Anchorage for medical care, while the Coast Guard was able to transport the fishing crew to safety and tow ALASKA MIST to Unalaska. RESOLVE PIONEER was able to complete the tow from Unalaska to Dutch Harbor, where an investigation of the mechanical failure that started all this was begun. An investigation on how Officer Obendorf was subsequently injured also began.
Meanwhile, Officer Obendorf’s injuries required continued treatment in Anchorage and then transport on December 6 to Swedish Hospital in the Seattle area for further care. Sadly, he passed away from his injuries on December 18. Our condolences and hearts go out to his family and friends, including his Coast Guard family, who have expressed how they will miss him. Officer Obendorf had served in the Coast Guard for nine distinguished years.
Fishers risk their lives to catch our seafood, and when things go wrong out there, as they can even for trained crews on seaworthy vessels, then Good Samaritan crews, commercial tug and salvage crews, and the Coast Guard in turn risk their lives to help them. In fact, the Coast Guard is usually at the front line in aiding mariners in distress. They are not obligated to risk their lives for ours – they do so voluntarily, as their chosen calling.
We have the deepest respect for those who work at sea. Our wish for this new year remains the same as in past years: A successful career at sea and a healthy, full life. And we will never forget those who have perished, may they rest in peace and in our gratitude.