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Owner of Sunken Fishing Vessel Refuses Helicopter Rescue

uscg rigid hull life boat
Image courtesy USCG

Published Aug 2, 2021 5:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

A commercial fishing vessel that the U.S. Coast Guard rescued in 2019 sank Friday off the coast of Grays Harbor, Washington, requiring five SAR assets to come to the rescue of one surviving crewmember.

At about 1140 hours on Friday, the 13th Coast Guard District Command Center received an EPIRB alert for the fishing vessel Ruby Lily about 115 nm off Grays Harbor. The command center dispatched air crews from Coast Guard Air Station Astoria and Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento to respond, along with the Coast Guard Cutter Alert.

A P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance plane happened to be nearby and diverted to the scene, and the crew reported sighting one individual in a rigid hull enclosed life boat - an unusual survival-gear item for a 50-foot fishing vessel.

A good samaritan vessel was in the vicinity and offered to take the man aboard, but he reportedly refused assistance. A Jayhawk rescue helicopter out of Astoria arrived shortly after and deployed its rescue swimmer, and again the survivor refused to be evacuated, demanding a rescue from a cutter instead. The helicopter left him with flares and a position locating beacon, then departed.

At about 1600, the cutter Blue Shark diverted to the scene to help out. It would be some time before her arrival, so a fixed-wing SAR plane out of Sacramento flew out to keep an eye on the raft and monitor its position. 

At about 0230 the next morning, Blue Shark arrived on the scene, followed by Alert. Blue Shark's crew checked on the survivor's health and found him to be in stable condition. The Alert recovered the rigid-hulled lifeboat for a tow back to Astoria.

According to the man - who was also the vessel's owner - Ruby Lily began taking on water rapidly and sank on Friday. 

It is not the first time that the Coast Guard has responded to a distress signal from the Ruby Lily. On July 30, 2019 - almost exactly two years ago - crews out of Yaquina Bay rescued the vessel after it became stranded about 100 nm off Newport, Oregon. It took four days to reach her, get her in tow and bring her back to shore, according to Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay. 

A motor lifeboat crew out of Yaquina Bay prepares the Ruby Lily for a tow, July 2019 (USCG)