Two Dead in Fishing Vessel Accident on Suislaw River Bar

US Coast Guard assisted in a search and rescue mission for th crew of a fishing boat that sank in Oregon
The Suislaw River Bar, Florence, Oregon (file image courtesy Sam Beebe / Ecotrust)

Published Jun 29, 2020 8:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

U.S. Coast Guard crews responded to assist a commercial fishing vessel’s crew who had abandoned ship in the early morning hours of June 29 near Florence. Oregon.
According to the Coast Guard, it received a distress call at about 1:50 a.m. from the captain of fishing vessel Aquarius stating all crew members were abandoning ship. The captain’s call was followed by a signal from the vessel’s EPIRB. The vessel had struck the south jetty in the Siuslaw River Bar and was taking on water. 

While all of Oregon’s bar are known for their difficult conditions, the Siuslaw River Bar according to the Oregon State Marine Board has a very narrow channel extending out past the jetties. Unlike the larger bars on the Oregon Coast, the board cautions that the Siuslaw River Bar may be rendered impassable for small boats by only a moderate swell, particularly at ebb tide. Boaters are warned to use extreme caution when operating near this bar. 

At the time of the accident, the Coast Guard reports that the seas were running at 6 to 8-feet with occasional 10-foot waves, breaking at the bar.
An MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter crew from Air Facility Newport launched and arrived on scene at 2:50 a.m. along with rescue crews from Station Siuslaw River and Station Umpqua River assisting with the search. The Siuslaw Valley Fire Rescue and Western Lane Ambulance, along with members from Station Siuslaw River, also searched from shore. 

One responsive individual was located and rescued near the shoreline according to the Coast Guard, and that person confirmed that two others were onboard the vessel when it sank. The helicopter crew located a second unresponsive person and hoisted them into the aircraft. They were brought to awaiting EMS at Florence Municipal Airport.
At about 7 a.m., the final person was located. With the assistance of the helicopter rescue swimmer, the unresponsive individual was brought aboard the Station Siuslaw River boat and then brought to awaiting EMS.
“This highly unfortunate loss of two members of our close community deeply saddens all of us,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Jay Nilles, Officer-in-Charge of Station Siuslaw River. “Without today's technology of VHF-FM radio communications and an EPIRB, we would not have been able to quickly locate the scene of distress, followed by the location of survivors and victims. This highlights the need for life-saving equipment on our commercial fishing fleet as we continue our mission to make commercial fishing safer for everyone.”