The Deadliest Catch cast is no stranger to tragedy. During the filming of season five, Jake Anderson’s sister Chelsea died unexpectedly due to complications with pneumonia; Jake then lost his father Keith a year later. A large part of the show’s sixth season dealt with the stroke and subsequent death of Captain Phil Harris of the Cornelia Marie. Now in its 16th season, the show has featured the tragic sinking of the fishing vessel Scandies Rose. Here’s what you need to know about what happened.
The Scandies Rose Sank on December 31, 2019
The 130-foot fishing vessel Scandies Rose had been active since the late 1970s when it was built in Alabama. On New Year’s Eve 2019, it set out to start the Bering Sea crabbing season off the coast of Alaska. 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.
At the time, winds were gusting up to 45 knots and the seas were as high as 20 feet. According to the New York Times, the seven-member crew was asleep when the ship began listing hard to its right side. Before they could fully get into their survival suits, the boat tilted so hard over that they were sliding across the floor.
Two men, John Lawler and Dean Gribble Jr. managed to climb out onto the deck. The life rafts were unreachable because they were inside the wheelhouse, which was already almost underwater. They braced to go into the water together, but a huge wave took them in and they were separated.
Gribble Jr. watched the Scandies Rose sink and floated in the water for about 10 minutes until he managed to find a life raft that had come loose from the boat. Once he pulled himself into the raft, he called and called, hoping to find other survivors. Eventually, Lawler heard him and called back. Gribble Jr. found him and pulled him aboard, where they withstood hours of freezing water and winds, with ice forming on their suits and the raft, losing hope of being rescued with every passing minute
But after five hours of searching, a Coast Guard helicopter found them off the Alaska peninsula near Sutwick Island.
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.”
There Were Five Victims
Five Scandies Rose crew members lost their lives in the sinking: Captain Gary Cobban Jr. and his son, David Cobban, plus Arthur Ganacias, Brock Rainey, and Seth Rosseau-Gano. In a feature on local KIRO 7, Cobban Jr.’s sister Gerry talked about how she knew the minute she heard about the disaster that she was probably never going to see her brother again.
“When I heard the words that he had called in and they were abandoning ship, I knew it was bad and that I would probably never seen him again,” said Gerry, adding, “He never did anything else. Fishing was his life and he loved it.”
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, most likely because the COVID-19 pandemic has halted a lot of industries 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.
Edited to add:
The United States Coast Guard reached out to Heavy about this article and would like the public to know that they are “actively conducting a marine accident investigation into the circumstances surrounding the sinking of the Scandies Rose.”
“There will be a public hearing in September 2020 that will focus on the sinking of the Scandies Rose, which led to the deaths of five fishermen off the coast of Alaska,” said a Coast Guard representative in an email. “Additional information with specific dates and location of the public hearing will be provided in the near future. The Coast Guard will Livestream this event for members of the public that are unable to attend in person and are interested in following the proceedings.
“If anyone has any information on the Scandies Rose, please reach out to the Coast Guard investigation team. Examples of additional information include but are not limited to communication such as texts, voicemails, emails, or pictures from crewmembers prior to the accident, knowledge of vessel modifications made over the years, and knowledge of crewmember work experience. The Coast Guard has established an e-mail address for the public and interested parties to provide information, ask questions, and make comments related to the ongoing investigation and scheduled hearing. This e-mail will be checked regularly and all correspondence will be acknowledged. This email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Deadliest Catch airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the Discovery Channel.