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Blue North Reaches Confidential Settlement With Fish Processor In Freezer Hold Accident Claim

A crewman injured in a cargo conveyor belt accident has reached a confidential settlement with Blue North Fisheries. The case arose out of an accident in the BLUE ATTU's freezer hold while the vessel was fishing in the Bering Sea. The crewman suffered a crushed index finger in the accident, requiring surgery.

On most Alaska Freezer longliners, after the fish product has been frozen and packaged into bags and boxes weighing 35-40 lbs., the boxes are moved from the processing deck to the freezer hold via a hatch and inclined chute. The crewman on the factory level throws the frozen product down the chute which leads to a conveyor belt. Typically, crewmen in the freezer hold, commonly referred to as "freezer rats," cannot see the crewman throwing the product down the chute into the freezer hold. There is no way to control the speed and velocity of the boxes or bags of product shooting down the chute like runaway sleds, and the speed may be increased by the use of roller systems. The crewmen in the freezer hold grab the product from the conveyor belts or rollers and stack the product in the hold. The amount of product that is thrown down into the freezer hold can quickly exceed the amount of product that can be removed from the belt by the crewman in the freezer hold who has to pack and stacked the boxes or bags in the hold. This can create a substantial risk of injury as the crewman's hand, reaching to pick the product off the conveyor belt, is exposed to being smashed between the bag he is lifting and another bag which has been thrown down the chute. This type of cargo handling system has resulted in countless injuries aboard many other Alaska factory freezer vessels. Stacey & Jacobsen have three other cases currently pending in the office involving very similar freezer hold accidents involving other Alaska fishing boats.

In the Blue North Fisheries case, the crewman suffered a comminuted crush to his index finger that required surgical repair with plates and screws. After his initial surgery, the crewman had two additional surgeries to attempt to regain further motion of his index finger. Unfortunately, despite good care, the crewman was left with residual disabilities that prevented him from returning to work as a fish processor. The case was settled several weeks prior to trial. The settlement agreement calls for the terms of the settlement to be held confidential. The case is Torres v. Blue North Fisheries et al., King County Cause No. 09-2-20303-2-SEA.

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