Coast Guard calls off search for missing crew member in Nushagak Bay

Jul 1, 2019

A fisherman went overboard around 3 a.m. in Nushagak Bay. A ten-hour search covered 650 square nautical miles and was called off around 4 p.m.

A fishing vessel in Nushagak Bay on June 24, 2019. The vessel pictured was not involved in the incident with the missing crew member.
Credit Alex Hager / KDLG

Update at 12 p.m. Friday, July 8: The crew member who fell overboard is James Elliott, 36, of Louisiana, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

A crew member of the fishing vessel Pail Rider went overboard around 3 a.m. Monday in the Nushagak Bay, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. A ten-hour search for the crew member was called off around 4 p.m. that afternoon.

The Coast Guard spent the day searching the water for the missing crew member, who was reported to be a man in his 30s. The search efforts utilized two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews, a C-130 Hercules aircraft, and ten good samaritan fishing vessel crews. After the team covered 650 square nautical miles and was unable to locate the missing man, they called off the search. 

Nate Littlejohn, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard, said that decision was made based on multiple factors.

"One of the most important factors we consider is how much time have we spent," Littlejohn said. "What is the span of the search area, what is the water temperature. And the likelihood of survival in a water temperate of 52 degrees with no life jacket in ten hours, it's not likely."

The Coast Guard said it would resume the search if a sighting was reported, and it hoped that the crew member’s bright orange clothing would increase those chances.

Littlejohn said that wearing a life jacket is one of the best ways to increase the chance of survival in similar incidents. 

"If you're always wearing a life jacket when you're on a boat," Littlejohn explained. "Your chances of survival are much greater. If you enter the water, especially up here in Alaska, your chances of making it home to see your loved ones becomes greatly reduced without one."

Approximate conditions in Nushagak Bay at the time the crew member entered the water included 20 mile-per-hour winds, 10-mile visibility, one-foot seas, a water temperature of 52 degrees and an air temperature of 54 degrees.