A two-week federal inquiry into the fatal sinking of the F/V Scandies Rose — lost on New Year’s Eve 2019 west of Kodiak Island — opens today in Seattle.
The U.S. Coast Guard and partner agencies will hold a virtual formal hearing to consider evidence related to the sinking of the Dutch Harbor-based fishing vessel until March 5.
The 130-foot crab boat sank near Sutwik Island, Alaska around 10 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2019 with seven crew members aboard. Two fishermen were rescued wearing gumby survival suits in a life raft, but five others were never found.
The search spanned over 20 hours, 1,400 square miles, and included four MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews, two HC-130 Hercules airplane crews and crew aboard the Coast Guard cutter Mellon.
The hearing will focus on the conditions before and at the time of the sinking, the Coast Guard said in a statement. This will include weather, icing, fisheries, the boat’s condition, owner and operator dynamics, the regulatory compliance record of the vessel and testimony from the survivors and others.
Approximately 43 separate witnesses, including other professional mariners and officials from a number of government agencies, are scheduled to testify over the next two weeks, according to Capt. Gregory Callaghan, chair of the Marine Board of Investigation, which was convened to investigate the tragedy.
“It is an administrative hearing,” Callaghan said during a press conference Friday. “This is not criminal in any nature. It is very much an administrative proceeding to gather the facts of the case.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the incident and is joining the Coast Guard in what they call a “fact-finding phase.” The NTSB will analyze the facts to prepare and publish a separate report.
The joint inquiry will not conclude the investigation, according to Callaghan. And it does not rule out future hearings, he said.
“This is merely a way that we can put all this information on the record and continue to gather facts surrounding the case,” he said. “Once we have that, we will go into an in depth analysis of everything that we’ve gathered so far [and] the testimony that we hear at this hearing. And then we will start to come up with some conclusions and develop some potential recommendations with the hopes that we can make meaningful recommendations to help prevent further loss of life and improve the safety of the maritime industry.”
The full-day hearings are scheduled to convene daily at 7 a.m. Alaska time on weekdays, Feb. 22 through March 5.
To ensure public access and participation, the hearing will be streamed live each day at https://livestream.com/uscginvestigations, and the sessions will also be archived on the web at a later date.
The Coast Guard has created an email address for people interested in providing information, asking questions or making comments related to the ongoing investigation. The email address is: ScandiesRoseMBI@uscg.mil.