ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A crewman from a doomed fishing boat fell from a rescue basket as a Coast Guardsman tried to pull him into a helicopter.
The helicopter crew testified Saturday about the death of Byron Carrillo, a crewman from the 203-foot Alaska Ranger.
The vessel sank March 23 in the Bering Sea about 120 miles west of Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Alfred Musgrave told a Marine Board of Investigation he tried to pull Carrillo out of a dangling rescue basket into the helicopter.
With Carrillo finally near eye-level, Musgrave reached out, just as he had with the other survivors, to pull the 36-year-old from Los Angeles into the heated chopper.
But Carrillo’s survival suit was swollen with seawater and he seemed unable to budge from his awkward position on the rim of the basket.
Carrillo’s long, curly hair hid most of his face, but Musgrave could still see his eyes.
“He looked terrified, and rightly so,” Musgrave said.
Musgrave said he turned to look for a tool to slash open the suit and drain the water.
That’s when Carrillo slipped from Musgrave’s grasp and fell about 40 feet into the sea.
After a five-minute discussion, the men decided to move on. By that point, they said, the only swimmer on board, Abram Heller, was helping Madruga and the helicopter was running dangerously low on fuel.
“We had a discussion in the cabin about trying to get him,” Musgrave said. “The pilot said, ‘It’s been five minutes and he’s still face-down in the water. We have to move on.’ I agreed. We were low on fuel and didn’t have the time to do anything more.”
The crew went on to pick up one more survivor before heading back to the Coast Guard cutter Munro for refueling.
In all, 42 crew members were plucked from the water by the Coast Guard and the Ranger’s sister ship, the Alaska Warrior, which recovered Carrillo’s body. Japan resident Satoshi Konno, the ship’s fish master, has never been found and is presumed dead.
The hearings, run jointly by the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board, will continue in Seattle in mid-April, said Coast Guard spokeswoman Sara Francis. Many of the crew members and the boat’s owner, the Fishing Company of Alaska, are based in Washington state.
Five people died in the sinking.
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