Deadliest Catch Captain: Scandies Rose Sinking Is ‘A Mystery,’ Shows None Are Safe From Tragedy

Bill Wichrowski, a captain on the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch, attends the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 17, 2012

Getty Bill Wichrowski, a captain on the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch, attends the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 17, 2012

On the 16th season of Deadliest Catch, the sinking of the fishing vessel Scandies Rose took center stage for several episodes. While that particular boat was not outfitted with a crew for the show, it was well-known among the Alaska crab fishing vessels. When it sank on New Year’s Eve 2019, Captain “Wild” Bill Wichrowski of the Summer Bay lost two close friends, Captain Gary Cobban Jr. and the ship’s engineer, Art Ganacias.

Wichrowski Has Nothing But Praise for Captain Coggan and The Crew

In an interview with TV Shows Ace, Wichrowski said that he and fellow captain Sig Hansen are still mystified about what happened because Scandies Rose had a very talented crew.

“We still don’t know what happened to the boat. It was adverse conditions. The boat was actually built to crab. It wasn’t a makeover boat … Scandies was a big machine and it was built and designed just to crab. Gary was a phenomenal captain. He had a tremendous engineer. I knew Art [Arthur Ganacias] really well for probably 25, 30 years. And he had deck hands on there that were some of the best in the fleet,” said Wichrowski. “So it’s just a mystery. And as Sig Hansen and I have been talking lately, that it lets us all know that none of us are insulated from the possibility.”

Wichrowski said that losing Cobban Jr. was hard not only on himself but on his crew member, Landon Cheney, who was actually going to return to working on the Scandies Rose in 2019 but was convinced to stay with the Summer Bay.

“My friend was Gary, the captain. Gary and I went back, I knew him for a million years … and two of [my crew] had worked on the boat,” said Wichrowski. “Nick [McGlashan] was buddies with all those guys. It’s a small community to begin with, but, what was bizarre is Landon, my No. 2 guy, he was a little disgruntled last summer about some stuff that was going on and he was going to go back to the Scandies Rose just ’cause he worked on it before.

“So we kind of convinced him collectively convinced him to stay on our boat, but he essentially could have been on board the boat for that trip. And that was the really heartfelt moment when I had to let him know because Gary was one of his mentors in life.”

The Scandies Rose Sank Very Quickly And Most On Board Didn’t Stand a Chance

On December 31, 2019, the Scandies Rose went out on a run in the Bering Sea. According to National Fisherman, around 10 p.m. the Coast Guard received a mayday call from the vessel and launched a helicopter and another aircraft to search for it about 170 miles southwest of Kodiak, Alaska.

According to the New York Times, the crew was asleep when the ship began listing hard to starboard. Two men managed to climb out onto the deck. John Lawler and Dean Gribble Jr. were the only survivors. They were swept overboard and managed to eventually scramble into a life raft, then they waited for five hours in freezing winds and sea spray as ice formed on their survival suits and the raft itself until finally, the Coast Guard managed to find them.

In a YouTube video about the sinking, Gribble Jr. said that the tragedy happened incredibly fast — about 10 minutes.

“Everybody was trying to get out. Everybody was doing everything they could … we started listing really hard on the starboard side. From sleeping to swimming was about 10 minutes,” said Gribble Jr. “We were in 20-foot seas, it was blowing 40 [mph], icing conditions, worst possible conditions. I’ve fished for 20 years, I know that you do not make it — everybody can die in those situations, and I knew that was what we were going into.”

The icing conditions Gribble Jr. referred to have been the subject of a lot of talk about why the Scandies Rose sank, something Wichrowski said he cannot comment on at this time because the investigation into the tragedy is on-going.

“There’s legalities involved [in speculating about the ice on the ship]. And to quote that before the Coast Guard summarizes what’s going on might be a push. It was a serious night for weather temperature or air temperature and weather and wind conditions,” said Wichrowski. “So, that’s what you would lead to be led to believe. I’m kind of stammering on this because you have got to be careful with your words because of legalities anymore.”

In March 2020, the Coast Guard announced that it was convening a Marine Board of Investigation into the sinking in order to determine the cause of casualty, whether any misconduct, negligence or willful violation of law contributed to the cause of casualty, and whether there is evidence that an offender could be subjected to civil or criminal penalties, according to National Fisherman. Updates on the investigation will be posted to the Coast Guard’s website; none have been posted so far, likely because the COVID-19 pandemic has halted a lot of actions nationwide. In fact, the jury trial in Alaska to have the missing crew members officially declared dead has been postponed until September for that very reason, according to the Kodiak Daily Mirror.

Deadliest Catch airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the Discovery Channel.

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