With jury trials in Alaska suspended until September, the Cobban family will have to continue waiting in limbo until their family members who disappeared on the F/V Scandies Rose are officially declared dead.
The captain of the 130-foot crabbing vessel, Gary Cobban Jr., along with his son David Cobban and three others, disappeared on the F/V Scandies Rose when it sank on a stormy New Year’s Eve six months ago.
With only two survivors, the bodies of the other five crewmen were never retrieved. The cause of the sinking is still under investigation. In the meantime, the Cobban family has had to wait as the presumptive death trial has been postponed, along with all other jury trials in the state, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joel Bolger, chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, signed an order to postpone jury trials at least until Sept. 1 because of Alaska’s high number of COVID-19 cases. Jury trials have been postponed since March 16.
Most courtrooms do not have adequate space to safely accommodate a public audience or a large jury selection assembly while adhering to social distancing guidelines, the order stated.
Now, the family will have to wait at least a few more months before being able to move forward with many aspects of their lives.
“Here we are sitting here waiting, circling and circling,” said Gary Jr.’s sister Deanna Cobban, adding that it is similar to a plane trying to land in Kodiak in the fog and trying to find light in a frustrating situation.
The presumptive death hearing for the two missing Cobban men has been delayed several times. Deanna said the initial hearing was scheduled for April but was not held until May.
At that hearing, a tentative jury trial date had been set for June, according Cobban’s sister, Gerry Cobban Knagin. But now the family does not know when they will have a hearing.
“Literally, we cannot do anything,” Deanna said. “They are still considered missing, and until we have a death certificate we can't go on with the wills. We can't go on with anything.”
Without a death certificate, the family has had to continue paying Gary Jr.’s routine payments for the past six months, such as his mortgage, cell phone and electricity. The family also cannot access any of their photos, emails or texts without death certificates.
“We are in a holding pattern. They are not dead, they're not alive and they are not here,” Deanna said.
A memorial for the missing Cobban men, open to the public, will be held at the Elks Lodge on Sept. 19 at 5:30 p.m.