U.S. Coast Guard Watchstanders at the Thirteenth District in Seattle received an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) transmission from the F/V ETHEL MAY on Sunday, February 5th at approximately 7:30 p.m. The 46-foot crabbing vessel was near the Willapa Bay entrance at the time of the distress transmission.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Columbia River in Warrenton, Oregon, were also notified that the wife of one of the men aboard the vessel called 911 to report an emergency.
U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Astoria immediately launched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew and U.S. Coast Guard Station Grays Harbor launched a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat and crew.
At about 8:10 p.m. rescue crews were able to hoist two of the three crewmembers from a life raft and take them to awaiting EMS. They were then transferred to Willapa Harbor Hospital for a higher level of care. A third crewmember was still missing. The aircrew returned to the scene and the search continued.
“We want nothing more than to find the last individual from the fishing vessel Ethel May,” said Lt. Cmdr. Colin Fogarty, the search and rescue mission coordinator for Sector Columbia River. “Since the Coast Guard received initial reports, our operators have been diligently carrying out search operations. We have assets on the water, in the air, and on shore from four different Coast Guard units and we are interfacing with local agencies to effectively search Willapa Bay and the surrounding area.”
The search was suspended at 5:30p.m. on Monday after multiple agencies searched a 290-square mile area for 15 hours and completed 18 different search patterns. It is assumed that the boat broke apart as vessel debris was found in Willapa Bay and the Pacific.
“Suspending search efforts is a tough decision that we never take lightly,” said Lt. Cmdr. Colin Fogarty, the Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator for Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. “This search involved close coordination between state and local agencies. We truly appreciate their assistance, especially from Pacific County. The Coast Guard continues to speak with the family affected by this incident.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the missing man.