Coast Guard investigators are looking into the deaths of three fishermen whose crabbing boat capsized at the entrance of Yaquina Bay in Newport on Tuesday night, Jan. 8.
The crabbers were approaching the Yaquina Bay Bar aboard the 42-foot Mary B II when it capsized without warning, tossing two overboard into the rough seas, according to a Coast Guard. Waves were reportedly 14-16 feet, rising to 20 feet at times.
The crew had requested a Coast Guard escort across the Yaquina Bay Bar. The 52-foot Motor Life Boat (MLB) Victory was deployed to meet the Mary B II, but at 10:08 p.m., the crabbing vessel capsized with the Victory’s crew nearby, the Coast Guard said.
The Coast Guard said the Victory’s crew immediately began searching for the fishermen and called for support, leading to another crew launching aboard a 47-foot MLB as well as a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Facility Newport arriving on scene.
The Newport Fire Department sent responders to North Beach to conduct shore side searches, reporting debris washing up on the beach. The Coast Guard aircrew found the boat hull near the North Jetty, approximately 100 yards offshore.
The first fisherman was recovered at 11:30 p.m. by the aircrew. He was unresponsive and was transported to shore where he was delivered to emergency medical services. Oregon State Police (OSP) identified him as James Lacey, 48, of South Toms River, New Jersey.
Another fisherman washed ashore and was found unresponsive by the shore-side searchers. OSP said Newport Fire Department personnel found Joshua Porter, 50, of Toledo, Oregon on the beach in the Nye Beach area. The two men were transported to Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital but did not survive.
The third fisherman, boat skipper Stephen Biernacki, 50, of Barnegat Township, New Jersey was spotted within the hull of the vessel. However, weather conditions prevented the safe retrieval by rescuers. Newport Fire Department personnel pulled Biernacki’s body from the Mary B II’s cabin on Wednesday morning, Jan 9.
An Air Facility Newport aircrew reported no visible pollution but lots of debris scattered around. Oregon State Park Rangers were charged with gathering the debris from the fishing vessel.
The Mary B II had been crabbing for three days before attempting to return to port with their reported catch. The crew did not send out a Mayday call, according to the Coast Guard.