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Coast Guard Opens Inquiry into Deadly Capsizing at Newport

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File image courtesy USCG

By The Maritime Executive 01-22-2019 10:38:00

The U.S. Coast Guard has opened a formal investigation into the circumstances behind the capsizing of the fishing vessel Mary B II at the Yaquina Bay bar crossing in Newport, Oregon earlier this month, which led to the deaths of three crewmembers. Cmdr. Karen Denny, the executive officer of Marine Safety Unit Portland in Portland, will head up the inquiry. 

On the night of January 8, the Mary B was preparing to cross the Yaquina Bay bar, the notoriously hazardous entrance to the harbor at Newport, Oregon. The surface conditions were rough, with waves of 14-16 feet. Her crew called the Coast Guard lifeboat station in Newport to request an escort across the bar, and the motor lifeboat Victory headed out to meet her. 

As the Mary B approached the channel entrance, she was caught by a wave and pushed north of the jetty into an area of rocky shoals. The Coast Guard crew could not safely follow to carry out a rescue, and the Mary B soon capsized. Two crewmembers were thrown free, and were later found dead. The skipper's body was found within the Mary B's wheelhouse. 

The deceased have been identified as Oregon resident Josh Porter, 50, and New Jersey residents Stephen Biernacki, 50, and James Lacy, 48. The Newport Fishermens' Wives, a local support organization, is accepting donations for the families of the deceased. 

"These families and our community are grieving deeply," the group wrote in an appeal. "When a boat and lives are lost, especially at the beginning of a season, it is emotionally and financially devastating."