On Friday, March 15, a 35-year-old crewman of the 58-foot fishing vessel Stella fell overboard into Shelikof Strait, Alaska.
The crewman spent 25 minutes in the 37.6 degree water without a survival suit before he was brought back aboard by his fellow crewmen. Weather at the time of the incident was reportedly 20 mph winds from the southwest with seas to 4-feet and freezing spray.
After the crewman was brought back aboard, a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak medevaced the crewman who was exhibiting symptoms of hypothermia. The man was safely hoisted by the Coast Guard helicopter crew and delivered to emergency medical personnel at Air Station Kodiak for further transport to Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center.
“This crew did everything right to rescue this man and this is a perfect example of why vessel crews need to practice their emergency drills monthly,” a Coast Guard spokesman said.
The Coast Guard is currently investigating the cause of the fall overboard.
Whenever a crewmember is injured while in service of the vessel, they are entitled to maintenance, cure, and unearned wages. Maintenance is a per-diem payment intended to cover the injured seaman’s room and board while unfit for duty due to their shipboard injuries. Cure is payment for the injured seaman’s medical expenses up to the point of maximum medical improvement. Unearned wages are the seaman’s wages through the end of the voyage. Seamen injured in service of the ship are entitled to maintenance, cure, and unearned wages regardless of whether their injuries were caused by vessel owner negligence.
Where a seaman’s injuries are caused in any part, even the slightest, by vessel owner negligence, the seaman is also entitled to recover under the Jones Act and the doctrine of unseaworthiness. The Jones Act and the doctrine of unseaworthiness provides the injured seaman with damages for lost wages (past and future), other economic damages, medical expenses (including those beyond the point of maximum medical improvement), and damages for pain and suffering.