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The crab fishing vessel, Ballad, lost a crewman overboard Thursday ten miles off the Columbia River Bar. The Ballad is a 56-foot crab fishing vessel home-ported in Chinook, Washington. The 32-year-old crewman was reportedly only wearing rain gear at the time of the accident, and was not wearing a flotation-type work vest, which many vessel operators require their crewmen to wear.

The Coast Guard responded with helicopters and motor life boats when the Ballad issued a may day call at approximately 1 P.M. yesterday. The crewman’s body was subsequently recovered by a dive team from Clatsop County.

As noted in previous blogs, safety in the Washington and Oregon crab fishery has lagged behind the industry. The incidence of death for crab fishermen is ten times higher than other fisheries. In November the United States Coast Guard had implemented Operation Safe Crab, performing safety checks of crab boats in ports in Washington and Oregon. The safety checks concentrated on epirbs, survival suits, and life rafts. Most small crab boats are uninspected by the Coast Guard, and there are few safety regulations that apply to their operation and equipment.

Families of deceased crewmen have claims for wrongful death under Federal Maritime Law. The claims for crab fishermen in this situation will involve the Jones Act and the Death On the High Seas Act.

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