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Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Nov. 28, 2023

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One missing after crab boat lost off Southwest Washington coast


SEATTLE — A crew member from a 46-foot commercial crab boat that went down Sunday evening remains missing after two other crew members were rescued near Southwest Washington’s Willapa Bay by a Coast Guard helicopter team.

The Coast Guard on Monday released video of the rescue operation as the crew members were hoisted from a life raft into the helicopter.

Sunday evening brought rough weather and big waves.

Coast Guard teams were notified of the vessel, the FV Ethel May, sinking by an emergency position-indicating radio beacon that began broadcasting a signal as it went down around 7:30 p.m. Sunday, according to Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier, a public affairs specialist for the Coast Guard’s 13th District In Seattle.

The Coast Guard watch in Warrenton, Oregon, was notified of a 911 call made from the wife of one of the crabbers reporting an emergency aboard the vessel.

The Coast Guard helicopter was on scene around 8:10 p.m. The two rescued crew members suffered mild hypothermia and were taken to the Willapa Bay Airport. A search by air and sea, as well as some local volunteers working the shoreline, has been underway for the third crew member, according to Strohmaier.

Search crews have located debris from the boat within Willapa Bay, and nearby waters in the Pacific. That indicates the vessel has broken apart, according to a Coast Guard statement.

“We want nothing more than to find the last individual from the fishing vessel Ethel May,” Lt. Cmdr. Colin Fogarty, the search and rescue mission coordinator for Sector Columbia River, said in a statement.

“Since the Coast Guard received initial reports, our operators have been diligently carrying out search operations. We have assets on the water, in the air, and on shore from four different Coast Guard units and we are interfacing with local agencies to effectively search Willapa Bay and the surrounding area.”

The commercial crabbing season off a stretch of the Southwest Washington coastline opened Feb. 1, and crabbers this month faced a lot of stormy weather as they undertake the harvest. Another stretch of offshore water, which includes the area off Willapa Bay, opened for harvest Monday.

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