Early Saturday morning an EPIRB signal set off a search for the Warrenton-based fishing vessel LADY CECILIA and its four member crew. Coast Guard helicopters located a debris field, oil slick, and life raft just north of the Columbia River, 17 miles west of the Washington Coast. An extensive search failed to locate any of the vessel’s four crewmen, and they are presumed lost at sea. The lost crew was identified by the Coast Guard as David Nichols and Jason Bjaranson of Warrenton, Oregon; Luke Jensen of Ilwaco, Washington, and fisheries observer Chris Langel of Kaukauna, Wisconsin.
The LADY CECELIA is a 62-foot dragger owned by Dave Kent of Bay City, Oregon. Few details are known about the vessel at this time other than it was first registered in Oregon in 1991. Under Federal Regulations, vessels such as the Lady Cecelia are required to carry regularly serviced life rafts and survival suits, and crews are required to regularly be trained in safety procedures. Unfortunately, safety inspections of vessels such as the Lady Cecilia are not mandated by regulation.
Complicated Federal Maritime laws govern remedies available to families of crewmen lost in fishing accidents. Frequently, vessel owners utilize an archaic law called the Limitation of Liability Act to attempt to limit compensation available to the families of lost crew.