UPDATE: Coast Guard suspends search for missing fishing vessel 'Destination'

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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - UPDATE, 7:30 p.m. The Coast Guard has announced that the search has been suspended for missing fishing vessel Destination, which disappeared over the weekend with six people on board.

On Saturday, watchstanders from Coast Guard 17th District received an emergency position indicating radio beacon alert from F/V Destination. Shortly after, Kodiak aircrews were deployed to start the search.
The search continued through Monday.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the six crew members during this extremely difficult time,” said Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, Coast Guard 17th District commander in a release Monday evening.

“The decision to suspect a search is always difficult and is made with great care and consideration.”

UPDATE, 5:00 p.m.

The United States Coast Guard has scaled back its search effort for a missing crab boat off the coast of St. George Island.

Over the weekend, the search included the Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau, a C-130 and two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters. On Monday, only the cutter and C-130 remained searching for the missing vessel, each battling 35-mph winds and 10-foot seas.

Although the number of search crews has decreased, the search area has expanded dramatically. Coast Guard officials say crews are now searching an area that has grown to roughly 7,000 square miles.

The original search focused on an area about two miles off the coast of St. George Island, because of currents, that search area has stretched as far as 80-miles southwest of the island.

UPDATE, 8:15 p.m.

The family member of one of the missing crewmembers aboard fishing vessel Destination said in an interview Sunday that the situation is "devastating" for her and her family.

Karla Herdman, sister-in-law of Larry O'Grady, who was reportedly aboard the Destination, praised U.S. Coast Guard efforts and said she, family and friends are all just hoping for the best.

"The Coast Guard has been awesome, keeping us updated on the search and rescue procedures," Herdman said. "But it's unreal. It's like it's not happening.

"We're down here in Washington State, and we're sitting here waiting for answers. It's pretty hard."

Herdman is the sister of Gail O'Grady, Larry's wife. She said the last two days have been "a roller coaster" for Gail.

"She's okay one minute, and then reality is hitting," Herdman said. "It's devastating."

When asked about the status of the search shortly before 8 p.m., Coast Guard officials in Alaska said they had no additional information to release at the time.

UPDATE, 12:00 p.m:

The fishing vessel Destination remains missing today. The U.S. Coast Guard said additional crews were adding in the search Sunday.

“Coastguard Cutter Morgenthau arrived on scene this morning around 10 a.m., and they also have an aviation crew with MH-65 Dolphin helicopter that is able to asset with search patterns as well,” said Public Affairs Specialist Lauren Steenson.

Steenson says none of the six people believed to be on board the Destination have been identified.

In addition to the Coast Guard, good Samaritan boats along with ground crews, who are using 4-wheelers on the west side of Saint George Island, are continuing to assist in the search.

“Everyone’s been working together - the tribe, the city, the Coast Guard and ground crews," said Saint George resident Grace Merculief. "And we have the Good Samaritan crab boats out there, so everybody’s been working well together."

The Coast Guard reports the weather on scene as 25-mph winds with light snow, two to four foot seas, air temperature at 21 degrees and a sea temperature of 38 degrees.

UPDATE, 9:08 p.m:

Six people remain missing on Seattle-based fishing vessel Destination, the last communication with which was a distress signal from about two miles outside of St. George, Alaska.

A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak HC-130 Hercules airplane crew and two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews are still on the scene searching for the missing boat.

Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau is scheduled to arrive early Sunday morning. Officials say an Air Station Kodiak MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew currently deployed on the cutter will also be deployed to assist.

A U.S. Coast Guard crew which began its response around 10:15 Saturday morning after Coast Guard 17th District watchstanders in the Juneau received an electronic positioning radio beacon alert from the vessel, also Saturday morning.

UPDATE, 6:27 p.m.:

Officials say U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau, 378-foot high endurance cutter based in Hawaii, is on its way from Dutch Harbor to assist in the search for a missing fishing vessel with six people on it.

Fishing vessel Destination sent out a distress signal Saturday morning, according to a U.S. Coast Guard press release.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson said Saturday evening that the plan was to continue searching for Destination and its occupants, rather than call off the search at dark.

"They're planning on continuing the search throughout the night," she said.

At last check, at least one good Samaritan vessel as well as two Jayhawk crews that initially responded were still on scene.

The vessel is based out of Seattle, Steenson said, but had moored in Sand Point, Alaska, in the Aleutians East Borough.

As for what the discovery of the vessel's emergency position indicating radiobeacon (EPIRB), buoys, a life ring from the fishing vessel and an oil sheen means, Steenson said she "did not want to speculate."

"The reason for a response this large is usually because, when we reach the location the EPIRB is giving us, it's with the vessel," she said. "We'll at least get some communication to see if it was turned on by accident, or get in contact in order to rescue.

"I can't assume anything," she said, "but crews are going to continue to look throughout the night. We're just hoping for the best."

ORIGINAL STORY:

A U.S. Coast Guard crew comprising multiple units is searching for a fishing vessel near St. George, Alaska.

Coast Guard 17th District watchstanders in the state's capital received an electronic positioning radio beacon alert from the vessel Saturday morning, and thus launched aircraft crews in response, according to Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson.

A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak HC-130 Hercules airplane crew, which began its response around 10:15 Saturday morning, as well as two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews, which joined early Saturday afternoon, are currently responding to the alert from fishing vessel Destination.

The locator beacon was sent from approximately two miles northwest of St. George, a press release from U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska stated.

Two good Samaritan vessels, fishing vessels Silver Spray and Bering Rose, are assisting with the search. Citizens in St. George have reportedly assembled a search party to patrol the shoreline for any signs of the crew or vessel.

The emergency position indicating radiobeacon, or EPIRB, has been recovered among a debris field containing buoys, a life ring from fishing vessel Destination and an oil sheen.

“We are saturating the area with Coast Guard and good Samaritan assets and hoping for the best,” said Chief Petty Officer Joshua Ryan, Coast Guard 17th District watchstander.

Weather on scene is reported as 30-mph winds, five to eight-foot seas and snowing, according to the Coast Guard release. Air temperature is 20 degrees and sea temperature is 30 degrees.