NOAA Mariner Dies When Survey Launch Capsizes

Friday, August 16, 2002
Eric Koss of Woodinville, Wash., was killed August 13 when the hydrographic survey launch he was piloting in Prince William Sound, Alaska, capsized after being struck by high waves, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said today. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Koss, a member of the crew of the NOAA hydrographic survey ship Rainier, and two other crew members, David Fischman and NOAA Corps Ensign Jennifer Johnson, were in a small launch conducting surveys of the sea bottom off Point Elrington, Elrington Island, in Resurrection Bay. The work had been underway in rough seas, conditions that were normal for that area. The launch was apparently hit by high waves, which turned the boat sideways and capsized it. Fischman and Johnson made it safely to shore, but Koss perished during the incident. The two surviving crew members were rushed by Coast Guard helicopter to a hospital in Seward, where they were treated for minor injuries and released last night. Koss’s body was recovered by Rainier personnel around 6:30 p.m. and turned over to the Alaska State Troopers. “We are deeply saddened by Eric’s tragic death,” said Capt. James Gardner, NOAA Corps, who is commanding officer of Rainier. “The personal loss of a friend is coupled with the loss of a valuable member of the crew. Eric was a skilled seaman and valued contributor to our mission of collecting survey data to update the region’s nautical charts. He was a dedicated employee who loved his work, and was liked and admired by all who knew him.” Rainier is one of three NOAA hydrographic survey vessels that use side-scan and multibeam sonar systems to determine water depths and locate obstructions on the seafloor that are dangers to navigation. Rainier, which operates primarily in Alaskan waters, carries six aluminum launches that work in shallow waters. It was one of these launches that capsized yesterday. Koss, 30, was employed by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations on Sept. 1, 2001, and assigned to work on Rainier. He is survived by his parents and siblings of Woodinville, Wash.
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