The commercial fishing community around Newport, Oregon is in mourning today, after three men were killed Tuesday night in waters made famous by the Discovery Channel’s “Most Dangerous Catch” franchise.
Mary B. II Crab Boat Strayed Into “Dumping Grounds” Just Before it Capsized
Because of swiftly deteriorating conditions, the U.S. Coast Guard was escorting returning fishing boats into Yaquina Bay Tuesday night.
According to Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Molloy, the Mary B. II appeared on the horizon sometime before 10:00 p.m. Although the crew indicated they were not asking for assistance, Molloy told The Oregonian that he chose to be “proactive” and began to escort the vessel to the tip of a jetty roughly a mile away.
“We met them at buoy No. 1 and explained our procedure for safely crossing the bar,” he said.
Apparently, the Mary B. II strayed north as it approached the Yaquina Bay bar. As a result, the boat was exposed to breakers off the north tip of the jetty, as well as shallows to the west dubbed the Dumping Grounds by local sailors.
“Most fishermen here know to avoid them,” Molloy continued. “The boat did not come starboard in time and was swamped. A wave washed right over the top of the pilot house. The boat was washed around the North Jetty and onto the beach.”
U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Efforts Failed Due to High Seas
The high seas, including occasional 20-foot waves, hindered efforts to rescue the three crewmembers aboard the Mary B. II.
Around 11:20 p.m., a Coast Guard helicopter did manage to pull one man from the sea. He was flown to a Newport hospital, but pronounced dead upon arrival.
The body of the Mary B. II’s Skipper was recovered from the its haul on Wednesday morning, after the boat washed up on a jetty. The Newport Fire Department located the remains of the third crewmember on Nye Beach.
The dead have been identified as:
- A 50-year-old man from Barnegat Township, New Jersey, said to be the boat’s Skipper.
- A 48-year-old man from South Toms River, New Jersey.
- A 50-year-old man from Toledo, Oregon.
Yaquina Bay Bar Considered One of Oregon Coast’s Most Dangerous Areas
According to media reports, the New Jersey men were long-time friends who had recently purchased the 42-foot Mary B. II crabbing boat and relocated to the Newport area in November.
Both had been fishermen in Barnegat Light, New Jersey before making the move.
Early reports of the tragedy identified the Mary B. II as one of the boats featured on “Deadliest Catch: Dungeon Cove.” On Wednesday, however, the Discovery Channel confirmed that neither the boat nor its crew had ever appeared on the program.
A spinoff of the popular “Deadliest Catch” series filmed in Alaska, “Dungeon Cove” focuses on Newport’s crabbing fleet and highlights the dangers the vessels face while crossing the Yaquina Bay bar.
Apparently, currents from the Pacific Ocean and Yaquina River converge at the bar. Their collision can create hazardous conditions, particularly during a storm.
In fact, the Yaquina Bay bar is considered one of the most dangerous areas along the Oregon Coast.
Boat Owners Had Little Experience with West Coast Crabbing
Although the owners of the Mary B. II had spent years fishing off the coast of New Jersey, the third crewmember had apparently expressed concerns before he died.
“He told friends that the crew was inexperienced,” one woman told The Oregonian. “Those were his words. It’s very sad. Because he was a responsible person he went out on the trip and never returned home. I’m really having a hard time with it.”
Unlike his fellow crewmembers, the Toledo man was native to the area and known by many in the Newport commercial fishing community. Few were surprised when he offered to help two New Jersey fisherman with little experience crabbing along the West Coast.
“… his light just shone,” another friend said. “He was kind and gentle and loving and giving. He would help whoever he could. People were attracted to him because he was a gentle, humble guy.”
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