Fishing Vessel Capsizes Off Newport, Killing Three

Coast Guard motor lifeboat at the Yaquina Bay bar; the North Jetty is in the background (USCG file image)

Published Jan 10, 2019 5:39 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Coast Guard is investigating the capsizing of the commercial fishing vessel Mary B II, which led to the death of three fishermen at the entrance of Yaquina Bay in Newport, Oregon.

At about 2200 hours Tuesday night, the Mary B was preparing to cross the Yaquina Bay bar, the notoriously hazardous entrance to Newport's harbor. The surface conditions were rough, with waves of 14-16 feet and occasional waves of up to 20 feet near the bar. 

The 42-foot Mary B II called the Coast Guard before making an attempt to cross, and she requested an escort from a USCG boat crew. A 52-foot motor lifeboat, the Victory, went out to meet the Mary B and stood by. However, as the Mary B approached the channel entrance, a wave struck her and pushed her north of the jetty into an area of rocky shoals.

"Under complete darkness and breaking waves . . . it was unsafe for us to attempt to get our boats inside a rocky known hazardous area without jeopardizing the safety of our crew," said Executive Petty Officer Jason McCommons, speaking to local TV news.

At 2208 hours, with the Victory nearby, the Mary B II capsized, throwing two crewmembers over the side. The Victory’s crew immediately began searching for the fishermen, and they called for support. A second launch and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter out of Coast Guard Air Facility Newport joined them on scene. The Newport Fire Department assisted with a shoreside search, and they soon found debris from the Mary B washing up on the beach. 

At 2330 hours, the helicopter aircrew found the body of the first crewmember. He was unresposive and was transferred to a hospital. 

The second fisherman washed ashore, where he was found by the shoreside search teams. He too was unresponsive, and was also transferred to a hospital by emergency medical services. 

The third crewmember's body was spotted inside the hull of the Mary B, which washed up on the beach about 100 yards from the channel's North Jetty. His remains were recovered the following morning by the Newport Fire Department.  

The deceased have been identified as Oregon resident Joshua Porter, 50, and New Jersey residents Stephen Biernacki, 50, and James Lacy, 48. Biernacki served as the vessel's skipper on the accident voyage. 

The Newport Fishermen’s Wives, a local support organization, is accepting donations for the families of the deceased. "We are currently reaching out to the families to find out more of what their needs are. We will provide them with emergency funds, and we also open an account and accept donations so that people know they are sending their donations to a safe place," said the group's president, Taunette Dixon, speaking to The Oregonian.