After almost a year of investigation into the Dec. 31, 2019, sinking of the F/V Scandies Rose that left only two survivors, investigators are still looking for information before a public hearing in February.
The Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigation, which is tasked with identifying probable causes of marine accidents, will hold a public hearing into the loss of the F/V Scandies Rose from Feb. 22 through March 5. The public hearing will be recorded and livestreamed for those who cannot attend in person.
During the hearing, the MBI will call witnesses who can provide testimony about the vessel, the circumstances and the crew members. The hearing will serve as an official record of the testimony. Afterward, the investigation team will put together the information into a report. The team aims to make the report public in the fall of 2021.
The MBI is looking into why the 130-foot crabber sank near Sutwik Island on New Year’s Eve, which resulted in the deaths of five crew members — including the vessel’s captain Gary Cobban Jr. and his son David Cobban, who are from Kodiak.
The original public hearing for the sinking of the F/V Scandies Rose was scheduled to take place in September but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our goal at the Marine Board of Investigation is to really provide the most thorough investigation that ensures transparency to the public and honors the profession of the fishing community,” said MBI Chair Cmdr. Greg Callaghan.
Since the MBI convened on Jan. 16, the investigation has focused on multiple aspects of the night the crab boat sank.
They have been trying to understand what weather conditions crewmembers would have experienced the night of the sinking, as well as the level of crew training, the condition of the vessel and other aspects that give a full picture of what might have occurred.
Investigators have contacted mechanics, shipyards, past crew members, family members, weather experts and a wide range of people related to the incident, crew members and the vessel.
The MBI also has the testimonies of the two survivors, Dean Gribble Jr. and John Lawler, who were found floating in high seas and freezing temperatures.
“In this case we are fortunate to have two survivors to really try to understand what they went through and compare what their statements to us are with other fishermen that were on the water,” Callaghan said.
While the MBI has collected critical information, investigators continue to gather evidence calling key witnesses, people with knowledge of the vessel and people with information that could help them uncover what occurred that night.
“All the information that has been provided so far has really been fantastic information that will help us come up with the best and most complete report possible,” Callaghan said.
The well-known crabber sank on its way to fish for opilio crab soon after leaving Dutch Harbor.
A recording revealed that the captain and his son completed the mayday call together before the boat went down. They were thought to have been on the starboard side of the vessel and were almost underwater when the call for help was finished.
According to court documents from a settlement between the owners of the Scandies Rose and the families of the crew members, the two survivors testified that they were wearing their survival suits after the vessel took a sharp list and rapidly continued to roll to starboard.
The other crew members were reportedly heard screaming as the wheel house rapidly filled with water.
To prevent accidents out on the water, Callaghan highlighted how critical crew training is for everyone, the new hires as well as the seasoned fishermen. Learning about the vessel’s escape routes and being aware of the life-saving equipment onboard, such as survival suits, could also make a difference in an emergency.
Callaghanalso noted the importance of paying attention to a vessel’s stability — how many crab pots can be stacked how high, and how ice adds to a vessel’s weight and stability.
The most important life-saving equipment on the boat is the Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon.
“If all else fails, it’s the one piece of equipment that can help us or anyone else in the water locate where the vessel may have gone down or where any survivor could be,” he said.
Callaghan urged anyone with information to contact the investigation team at ScandiesRoseMBI@uscg.mil.