Two crewmen were dead and 13 missing Monday after a U.S. fishing vessel vanished in the icy Bering Sea in what could be Alaska's worst fishing disaster, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
Arctic Rose, a 92-ft. (28-m) vessel harvesting rock sole, sank in rough seas about 200 miles northwest of St. Paul Island, the Coast Guard said. The island, about 850 miles southwest of Anchorage, is a hub for the Bering Sea groundfish industry.
Crewmen from a sister vessel also fishing in the area, Alaskan Rose, recovered the bodies of the accident's two known victims, the Coast Guard said. Alaskan Rose continued to search for survivors Monday.
The Coast Guard, which received emergency signals from the fishing vessel beginning at 3:30 a.m., dispatched a search airplane, a helicopter and rescue ships to the site. The C-130 plane arrived at the scene at 8:30 a.m. and found a life raft, survival suits and oil sheen on the water, but not the vessel.
"Right now, it's looking pretty grim with them finding empty survival suits and the life raft," said a Coast Guard Petty Officer involved with the rescue operation.
It was reported that weather conditions with seas of 20 to 25 ft. (6 to 7.5 m) and 40-knot winds, were worsening, from the Coast Guard's station in Kodiak.
"If you don't have a survival suit on and you're just in street clothes, it's a matter of minutes before you succumb to the cold water," the officer said.
The air and sea search
was expected to continue for at least a couple of days, until "we believe there's no chance of survival," he said.
The Dutch Harbor
, Alaska-based Arctic Rose is a freezer longline vessel, harvesting fish on individual hooks and processing and freezing the catch on board. The names of those missing, including the owner of the vessel who was believed aboard the Arctic Rose, were not released.