Coast Guard Investigation in Sinking of Fishing Vessel off Washington Coast

The Coast Guard concluded its first hearing Thursday to determine the cause of the March 10, 2012 sinking of the fishing vessel Lady Cecilia 17 miles off the Washington coast. Witnesses gave testimony on the history and condition of the vessel along with recollections of the crew and their experience. The investigation will continue and the hearing is expected to reconvene in approximately one month.

The Lady Cecelia and its crew went missing off the coast of Washington, March 10, 2012, prompting an extensive search by the Coast Guard, which located a debris field but no sign of the vessel or the men. There was no distress call from the vessel, but a signal was sent from the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, or EPIRB, a device mounted on the roof of the boat’s cabin that sends out a signal if it comes into contact with water. When the Coast Guard reached the scene less than 2 hours later, there was nothing but an oil slick, an empty life raft and some crab pots to mark where the 70-foot trawler and 4 crewmembers disappeared.

There is speculation from Coast Guard personnel that the Lady Cecelia could have been hit by a rogue wave, while other fisherman have said it might have been struck by a passing cargo ship. The girlfriend of one of the deceased crewmembers reports that he had concerns about the safety of the Lady Cecilia prior to leaving, but went to sea nonetheless.

Work as a commercial fisherman is considered one of the most dangerous jobs. From 2000-2010, 545 commercial fishermen died while fishing in U.S. waters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The surviving family members of seamen lost at sea may be entitled to recovery under the Jones Act, the Death On The High Seas Act, or state law for the wrongful death of their loved one.