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LADY CECELIA - Investigation Continues on Cause of March 10 Sinking

November 28, a three-day public hearing and investigation into the sinking of F/V LADY CECELIA, led by the U.S. Coast Guard, wrapped up. The Coast Guard held a first public hearing this past April. In September, LADY CECELIA was located at a depth of over 300 feet about twenty miles from shore. Once she was located, a remote-controlled sub camera sent photos to the surface.

One of the things noted in the Coast Guard video was that what looked like a crab pot line, with crab pot buoys attached, seemed to be tangled in the rudder. (LADY CECELIA was loaded with fish and headed for port when she sank - she was not a crabbing vessel.) Reportedly, the remote-controlled sub itself became tangled in that line and needed to be freed by a diver. The buoys are registered to a local crabber, who explained that his gear had been lost regularly in the past.

Also noted was that one side of LADY CECELIA had a stabilizer beam, but the other side did not. One possible scenario being postulated is that LADY CECELIA became fouled in crab pots, listed and lost stability, and then capsized. Investigators are also considering whether the missing stabilizer broke away during the possible fouling, contributing to the vessel rolling and capsizing.

The Coast Guard doesn't know what happened; however, whatever it was, they believe it happened quickly. The Coast Guard was alerted only by an EPIRB signal at 3:37 a.m. that dark morning. No maydays or other distress signals were reported. When the Coast Guard arrived, what they found was a debris field and an empty life raft, which was designed to inflate with water contact; LADY CECELIA had sunk, and the four men on board were never found. The sea was 43 degrees and calm with slow, moderate waves at that time.

The investigation is continuing. Because the stability of fish-laden LADY CECELIA is in question, investigators intend to build a model of her and test various scenarios. They hope to have some answers by this spring and to publish their findings this next summer.

Stacey & Jacobsen represent the estate of Jason Bjaranson, one of the four crewmen lost. In August, a confidential settlement of the wrongful death claim was reached.

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