Coast Guard searches for answers in sunken Seattle-based crabbing boat that left 6 dead

A two-week search for answers began on Monday morning with a public hearing into the "Destination" fishing vessel, a Seattle-based boat that disappeared in the Bering Sea in the winter – with a crew that’s declared legally dead.

The Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigation asked the “Destination” owner about safety equipment and the maintenance records of the vessel during the hearing, which started nearly two weeks after NOAA ships located the wreckage.

Over two weeks, the Coast Guard plans to call nearly 40 witnesses in an attempt to figure out what led to the sinking of the Destination and the loss of six crew members.

In July, NOAA researchers located the sunken vessel, allowing Coast Guard officials to get underwater video of the Destination in 240 feet of water.

That video will be shown publicly for the first time at the hearing next week.

On the hearing's first day, David Wilson, the boat's owner, was the only person to testify.

Wilson called the sinking "a reality that haunts me every day."

Investigators questioned Wilson about the stability of the 98-foot boat, especially when ice accumulates on deck and on crab pots from spray, which can make fishing boats top-heavy.

After the hearing, the Coast Guard will produce a report about the incident, which is due next February, one year after the sinking.

Six members were on board the crabbing boat near St. George, Alaska, in February. The U.S. Coast Guard at that time said the debris found in the search for the crabbing boat is consistent with a sunken vessel.

Over the spring, NOAA ships surveyed the area last known to the Destination with sonar to locate the missing ship in nearly 250 feet of water.

NOAA released 3D images in mid-July on Thursday, showing the ship on the ocean floor.

With the wreckage and debris field located by NOAA ships, a U.S. Coast Guard dive team aboard Coast Guard Cutter Healy will use a remotely operated vehicle to investigate the wreckage later this month.

The loved ones of the six men on board identify them as Charles Glenn Jones, Larry O'Grady, Raymond Vincler, Darrik Seibold, Kai Hamik and Jeff Hathaway.

KIRO 7 talked to Larry O'Grady's wife shortly after the boat vanished.

"It's been the sit and wait game and it just tears you up. There's nothing you can do," said Gail O'Grady. "They have fished up there in terrible weather, but everybody knows their job. Everybody knows that safety first. Whatever happened, happened so fast, that nobody had any time, had any time to send out a Mayday or anything."

A memorial at Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle was held in honor of the men. But community members reeled from the loss for months – like Keith Colburn, celebrity captain from “Deadliest Catch."

Colburn told KIRO Radio that he's lost many friends on the unforgiving Bering Sea but that doesn't make the disappearance of the Destination fishing vessel any less perplexing, or devastating.

“It’s a mystery is what it is,” Colburn said. “And this is not the first time that we’ve lost a vessel that literally just vanished.

"The only thing we can speculate is that something catastrophic gave way -- a bulkhead gave way or something and flooded; maybe a weird wave and the vessel capsized instantly," he added. "That's all we can figure."

Coast Guard leaders said that the discovery of the wreckage is an instrumental piece in their investigation. Investigators are expected to come up with a probable cause of the accident, and produce a final report that typically includes recommendations on how to make the industry safer.

The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting its own investigation and is participating in the Coast Guard's hearing.

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