Deadliest Catch boat flips in huge waves killing three men

A commercial crabbing boat featured in the Discovery Channel series The Deadliest Catch has capsized in rough waters killing the three men aboard.

The US Coast Guard said the vessel, the Mary B. II, overturned about 10pm on Tuesday as it crossed Yaquina Bay bar in Newport, Oregon.

The tragedy has sent a shock wave through a seafaring community already struggling from a month-long delay to the annual crabbing season.

The bar is one of the most notorious off the Oregon coast, and authorities said crews faced 3.6 to 4.2-metre waves as they tried to rescue the fishermen.

A US Coast Guard boat crew responds to three fishermen in the water after the commercial fishing vessel Mary B II capsized. Source: US Coast Guard via AP

James Lacey, 48, of South Toms River, New Jersey, was pulled from the ocean by helicopter and flown to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The body of Joshua Porter, 50, of Toledo, Oregon, washed up on a beach early Wednesday.

The body of the boat’s skipper, Stephen Biernacki, 50, of Barnegat Township, New Jersey, was found on the hull of the boat after it too0 washed up on a jetty.

The tragedy was nothing new for Newport, a working fishing port about 210 kilometres southwest of Portland on Oregon’s central coast. The small town hosts a granite memorial at Yaquina Bay etched with more than 100 names of local fishermen lost at sea over the past century and shared tragedies are woven into the fabric of the community.

“It happens frequently enough that we actually have funds that help families during this time. We fundraise all year long, and we try to help them as much as we can,” said Taunette Dixon, president of the non-profit Newport Fishermen’s Wives, which supports families who have lost a breadwinner to the waves.

Authorities in Newport, Oregon, examine the wreckage of the Mary B. II, a commercial crabbing that capsised while crossing Yaquina Bay Bar. Source: Oregon State Police via AP

Five-metre waves hit Yaquina Bay bar

A bar is an area near the coast where a river — in this case the Yaquina River — meets the sea. The force of the river water colliding with the ocean can create hazardous currents and swells, particularly during a storm.

The Yaquina Bay bar is considered one of the more dangerous ones along the Oregon coast. On Wednesday, reports showed waves almost five metres tall there.

It’s so treacherous that the dangers of crossing it with a fully loaded crab boat were the premise of a spin-off of the The Deadliest Catch, a reality TV show about commercial fishermen that aired on the Discovery Channel.

“The fishermen and their families know all too well, unfortunately, that that danger is real. They accept the challenge because they love what they do,” Mr Novotny said. “It’s part of who they are and what they do.”

“We feel deeply saddened by the news, as we feel part of the crabbing community,” the Discovery Channel told Yahoo in a statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and the entire community during this difficult time.”

Capsized boat another blow to delayed crabbing season

Those in the industry said the loss hit particularly hard this year, when crabbers were rushing to sea to try to catch up after the annual Oregon Dungeness crab season was delayed more than a month.

The season usually begins December 1, but only began last week because the crabs were too small and didn’t have enough meat to harvest.

Then, a series of bad storms in the first week of the season prevented many crabbers from recovering their pots on January 4, the first day they could do so, said Tim Novotny, spokesman for Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission.

“When they did get out, some of them had to stay out a little longer because of the weather. The difficulty is once you’re out at sea, they can handle a lot of conditions. But the trouble is trying to get back across those bars,” Mr Novotny said.