26 aboard as boat catches fire in Bering Sea

Posted: Monday, October 21, 2002

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) -- Two crew members were missing after a 180-foot Seattle-based fishing boat exploded and caught fire Sunday in the Bering Sea, the Coast Guard said.

A Coast Guard helicopter arrived on the scene Sunday night and rescued six crew members off the burning vessel -- the Galaxy, a long-line fishing vessel owned by Seattle-based Galaxy Fisheries LLC.

Twenty-four of the 26 people aboard were accounted for as of 10 p.m. Some were rescued from life rafts, Coast Guard Petty Officer Russ Tippets in Juneau said.

There were no confirmed deaths.

Some crew members were being treated for broken bones, hypothermia, third-degree burns. Some were unconscious by the time rescuers reached them, Tippets said.

The boat was about 30 miles southwest of St. Paul Island -- roughly 750 miles southwest of Anchorage -- when the problems began.

The vessel was still on fire four hours after the original mayday call.

The Coast Guard planned to transport the injured crew members to St. Paul. Those most seriously injured were to be airlifted to Anchorage, Tippets said.

Two fishing vessels, the Cooper Express and the Glacier Bay, were helping the Coast Guard at the scene of the fire, Coast Guard Lt. Mark Wilson said.

A Coast Guard cutter, the Jarvis, was also in the vicinity and moving toward the burning boat.

A second Coast Guard helicopter was dispatched from Kodiak, along with a C-130 airplane.

The Bering Sea is known for its rough weather, and conditions were difficult for rescue operations in the cold night. Winds were 30 to 40 knots, and seas were 10 to 15 feet with freezing spray, Tippets said.

The Galaxy recently left Dutch Harbor, Alaska, fishing for cod, according to John Young, an attorney for Galaxy Fisheries LLC in Seattle.

Young said names of the 26 crew members would not be released until families are notified.

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