Missing Fishermen: Search Suspended

March 11, 2012  

SEATTLE -- The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search Sunday for four men missing from a fishing trawler off the Washington coast, saying it's unlikely the men are still alive.

Rescue crews searched through the night after an early Saturday distress signal from the 70-foot Lady Cecelia led them to a debris field, an empty lifeboat and an oil sheen several miles off the coast. By Sunday morning, crews in Coast Guard cutters and an MH-60 helicopter had covered 640 square miles, Petty Officer Shawn Eggert said. "We have searched far beyond what the capacity of somebody to survive in these conditions might be," he said.

Coast Guard officials are unsure what happened to the Lady Cecelia. Eggert said he had no details on the debris found off the coast, or whether the vessel was still intact.

The lifeboat found by rescuers had no identifying marks, but Eggert said it's "extremely likely" the raft was from the Lady Cecelia since no other boats in the area reported losing such a craft. He also noted that contrary to previous reports, the life raft was fully inflated and in usable condition.

The Coast Guard identified the four missing men as 42-year-old Dave Nichols and 38-year-old Jason Bjaranson of Warrenton, Ore.; 25-year-old Chris Langel of Kaukauna, Wis.; and 22-year-old Luke Jensen of Ilwaco, Wash.

Overnight weather off the southern Washington coast consisted of a slowly moving front that created moderate waves but not stormy conditions. A buoy located 20 nautical miles off the Washington coast recorded water temperatures of 43 degrees at 4 a.m. Saturday.