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Some legal closure after Destination presumptive death hearing

An Anchorage jury declared the six fishermen who disappeared with the F/V Destination legally dead this week, as their families and the fishing community continue to mourn their loss.

For the families of the F/V Destination fishermen, the ruling provides some opportunities for legal closure, making it possible for them to begin to settle estates, insurance claims and other legal issues. The hearing was held in Anchorage District Court on Monday, where the jury heard testimony from the wife of the ship’s captain as well as the president of the company that owned the vessel, both of whom had asked for the hearing.

The Anchorage Daily News reported that the six-person jury reached their decision after just 15 minutes. The ruling clears the way for the court to ask the Bureau of Vital Statistics to issue death certificates for the fishermen. Under Alaska law, there’s ordinarily a six-month wait before death certificates are issued after a presumptive death ruling, but a judge can order death certificates to be issued sooner if there’s “clear and convincing evidence of the presumed death” – as there was in this case.

Presumptive death hearings may be held after serious accidents like this one or in other cases when there is no sign of a person’s body after an extended period of time. There were 20 such hearings in Alaska last year, according to the Anchorage Daily News, reflecting the realities of a state where people can disappear in the wilderness of the land and the ocean.

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