The Coast Guard received a mayday call at 6:54 am Friday morning, March 10th from the 34-foot gillnetter, Slayer. The caller stated, “Going down, two hands on board Port Gardner.”
The hands onboard Slayer were Rick Nebert, 42, of Juneau, and Matthew Young, 18, of Sitka. Rick was the owner/operator of the vessel. Rick’s wife, Jennifer, said that her husband had been longlining for cod near Kake and was headed to Sitka to unload his catch.
Within 50 minutes of the mayday call, a Coast Guard helicopter arrived at the scene, and with the assistance of a nearby vessel, the Aleutian Dream, searched the area. Approximately five miles south of Port Gardner they located a raft, survival suit, and a life ring. Later in the morning an additional HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and the Coast Guard Cutter, Anacapa, joined in the search. By early afternoon, two Civil Air Patrol aircraft also joined in the effort. On Friday night the Coast Guard used a helicopter equipped with infra red and night vision technology.
At the time of the search conditions included 35 to 40 knot winds, seas of 10-12 feet, and a water temperature of 40 degrees. A Self Locating Data Marker buoy was dropped in the water to keep pace with the drift, in an effort to understand the conditions and direction that debris or survivors would travel.
The Coast Guard and Civil Air Patrol continued their efforts for three days, searching and re-searching the moving debris field, and areas along the shore. A ground search party provided by Sitka Mountain Rescue also searched the vicinity of Port Garner, four and a half miles north and upwind of where the vessel allegedly went down. There was no sign of survivors having made it ashore. 60 hours of flight time was logged throughout the search, and 918 miles of shoreline and 735 miles of open water were searched multiple times.
Rick Nebert had fished Alaska waters for more than 20 years, and has gillnetted in Alaska for the past 10. He leaves behind a wife and two young children. The Slayer was not insured.
Sources: US Coast Guard & Juneau Empire