Midnight rescue for grounded Midnite Sun

A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak HH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew and Marine Safety Detachment Kodiak personnel conducted an overflight survey of the grounded 68-foot fishing vessel Midnite Sun at 11:45 a.m. Friday. The Coast Guard is working with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the owner of the vessel to safely remove any fuel from the vessel. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally photo)

A U.S Coast Guard helicopter crew rescued five fishermen from the Kodiak-based fishing vessel Midnite Sun after the vessel went aground 36 miles northwest of Kodiak early Friday.

Rescued from the 68-foot fishing vessel were Kodiak residents Francisco Jackson, 50, Clint Parks, 45, Michael Hintz, 28 and William Kingery, 21. Also rescued was Levi Russel, 20.

The fishermen were flown to Air Station Kodiak without injury. The U.S. Coast Guard has saved 18 Alaska fisherman in the past two months.

The area of the grounding, in the vicinity of Tanaak Cape, is on the south side of the Shelikof Strait and on the West side of Afognak Island.

Weather at the time was reported to be 52 mph winds and 18-20 foot seas.

“(We were) just getting buffeted all over,” helicopter crew aviation survival technician Claude Morrissey said. “About 25 foot swells break on top of the boat and about 50 mph gusts. We were up against the mountains so we were getting rocked pretty good.”

Air Station Kodiak launched the Jayhawk helicopter at 1:17 a.m. to rescue the fishermen after another vessel, the fishing vessel Sea Warrior heard the F/V Midnite Sun’s mayday call and passed it along to the Coast Guard.

“The mayday relayed from the crew of the Sea Warrior was invaluable,” sector anchorage command center supervisor Lt. Michael Anderson said in a press release. “Without the help of the Sea Warrior we may never had known that the crew of the Midnite Sun was in need of rescue. The Sea Warrior did an outstanding job.”

The Midnite Sun issued its mayday call on a channel the Coast Guard doesn’t monitor. The Sea Warrior was able to pass on the mayday using the VHF channel 16, which is reserved for hailing and emergency communications.

The operator of the Midnight Sun reported to the Coast Guard that about 6,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 150 gallons of lube and hydraulic oil were on the vessel at the time of the grounding according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which is working with the Coast Guard to address a potential environmental response and salvage operation.

A Coast Guard helicopter with inspectors from the Marine Safety Detachment in Kodiak conducted an overflight of the grounded vessel later on Friday. According to the DEC, no fuel or sheen was observed around the vessel or on the shorelines during the overflight.

Since then, additional crews have been able to visit the grounded vessel on land and report a breach in the hull of the Midnite Sun and an empty fuel tank but no residue or sign of petroleum products at the site, Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley said.

Mosely said the owner of the vessel must submit a salvage plan and a lightering plan before the grounded vessel can be refloated and repaired.

The cause of the incident is under investigation by the Coast Guard.

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