February 1, 1996 in City

Local Man Among Crew Lost At Sea Storm Swamps Crab Boat In Bering Sea, 7 Presumed Dead

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Byron Koesterman bragged about his job on a crab boat. He didn’t mind the 18-hour days, or the danger of being at sea.

But the job wound up claiming his life.

Koesterman, 19, who grew up in Spokane, was one of seven fishermen lost in the Bering Sea Saturday night when their 127-foot boat capsized during a violent storm. It sank in 2,400 feet of icy water.

“They didn’t even (have time to) hit their mayday button,” said Merri Jayne Koesterman, the teenager’s mother.

The U.S. Coast Guard called off a two-day search Monday afternoon.

It was Bryon Koesterman’s second time aboard the Seattle-based Pacesetter. His first was a six-week outing last fall.

“He was very, very proud of himself, especially when he got invited back,” his mother said. “To prove yourself on those boats you have to have brawn and guts.”

Coast Guard rescuers aided by 11 private fishing boats began searching for the Pacesetter about 10:30 p.m. Saturday when the vessel’s emergency beacon began transmitting automatically.

The signal was pinpointed at a spot 60 miles south of the St. George Islands in Alaska’s Pribilof Islands, about 700 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Early Sunday morning, fishing boats found the Pacesetter’s beacon, two empty life rafts and a buoy float.

When the storm struck, the Pacesetter had left Dutch Harbor in the Fox Islands headed for crab waters northwest of the Pribilofs. The boat had been scheduled to leave two weeks earlier, but was delayed by a 10-day strike over crab prices.

Besides Koesterman, crew members also presumed dead are: the boat’s captain, Matthew Pope of Seattle; Kirk Ericson of Seattle; Richard Anderson of Seattle; Stephen Mack of Seattle; Elias Pena of Anchorage; and Stanley Estestad of Norway.

Koesterman enjoyed snow boarding, camping, fishing and had rafted the Salmon and Lochsa rivers, family members said.

Born in Spokane, he attended Lewis and Clark High School before the family moved to Colfax. He moved to Seattle last year to live with his sister.

During a recent visit, Koesterman eased his mother’s fears about his job dropping and hauling in crab pots.

“Bryon had a passion for what he was doing,” said Merri Jayne Koesterman.

“He knew the risks. He told me, ‘Mom, if I have to die, it will be OK,”’ she said. “He knew what was ahead of him.”

, DataTimes


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