The captain of the FV Cornelia Marie died Saturday in his sleep in Sturgis, South Dakota, where he was attending one of the nation’s biggest motorcycle rallies, according to the commercial fishing vessel’s official Facebook page.
“Last night we lost a great friend, mentor, and a truly wonderful person. Captain Tony Lara passed away peacefully in his sleep,” the Facebook posting said. “Our hearts are heavy today.”
The Rapid City Journal quoted Meade County Sheriff Ron Merwin as saying that an autopsy will be performed Monday in Sturgis to determine the cause of Lara’s death.
Merwin could not provide more details, the newspaper said.
According to the website examiner.com, Lara was in Sturgis for the motorcycle rally, which it said was attended by about 1 million people this year.
Lara helped get the Cornelia Marie back on the water, fishing and making money after its original captain, Phil Harris, died from a pulmonary embolism on Feb. 9, 2010. Harris’ son, Josh, recently purchased the boat and began fishing with it during the 2014 Opilio Crab season.
The 128-foot Cornelia Marie, built in 1989 in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, returned to Kodiak in October 2011 under Lara’s command.
The vessel rejoined the Discovery Channel’s popular program “Deadliest Catch” in the 8th episode of the 10th season.
Lara was a crabbing veteran, who had his own freighting business. For 10 years, he worked on the Cornelia Marie in the 1990s. He ran the boat for salmon tendering.
After his father’s death, Josh Harris asked Lara to come on board as captain to help him learn the right way to run the Cornelia Marie, so he could keep the crew safe.
Lara was the one captain that brothers Jake and Josh Harris felt more at ease with, and Tony fit well with the rest of the crew.
“Tony stepped in as captain after Captain Phil passed away and kept the Cornelia Marie going while passing on his years of knowledge and experience to all of us on the crew,” the FV Cornelia Marie Facebook page said.
“When Captain Casey joined as captain, Tony came and gave a thorough walk through of the entire boat. He came to see us a couple months ago when he flew down to check out the Cornelia Marie after our big shipyard this year. Our hearts are heavy today,” it said.