It is with great sadness that we report the death of three crew members from the MARY B II. The vessel was returning from crabbing late in the evening on Tuesday, January 8, 2019. The U.S. Coast Guard reported that the 42-foot vessel overturned as it crossed Yaquina Bay Bar in Newport, Oregon, a difficult crossing well known in the fishing industry.
A week-long winter storm had battered the bar with reported waves on Tuesday of 14 to 16 feet. Before it capsized, the MARY B II had requested a Coast Guard escort as it crossed the bar. The 52-foot Motor Life Boat Victory was in the area when two crew members of the MARY B II were washed overboard and the vessel subsequently capsized.
An additional Coast Guard vessel was called to the scene, as well as a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter. James Lacey, 48, from New Jersey was extracted by helicopter and flown to Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Joshua Porter, 50, of Toledo, Oregon, washed up on the beach and was treated by emergency medical services; he was taken to Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital and pronounced dead.
The vessel skipper, Stephen Biernacki, 50, of New Jersey, remained in the boat as it capsized and was found in the hull when the wreckage was recovered.
The Commercial Dungeness crab season opened during the first week of January, after a month-long delay. The MARY B II had been crabbing for three days and was returning with a presumed catch. The difficult storms had made their work particularly treacherous, especially during the return. “The difficulty is once you’re out at sea, [fishermen] can handle a lot of conditions. But the trouble is trying to get back across those bars,” said Tim Novotny, spokesman for the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission.
The fishing community in Newport, Oregon, is familiar with the dangers associated with commercial fishing and work at sea. A granite memorial in Yaquina Bay memorializes the names of over 100 local fishermen lost at sea over the past century. The nonprofit organization, Newport Fisherman’s Wives, supports those who have lost family members to these dangers.