A fishing boat capsized off the coast of Oregon in a stretch of water once featured on Deadliest Catch: Dungeon Cove. All three of the fishermen aboard died in the incident.
On Tuesday night, the 42-foot crab boat attempted to cross the Yaquina Bay bar, a notoriously dangerous bar in Oregon. Some call it the “Graveyard of the Pacific” — and for good reason. The waters had previously been featured on the TV show, which called the bay the “deadliest commercial fishery in the world.”
Indeed, the Mary B II wasn’t lucky enough to make it this time. On the way back from a three-day crabbing trip, it capsized at the entrance point to the bar. Three crew members were aboard: Stephen Biernacki, 50; James Lacey, 48; and Joshua Porter, 50.
“Unfortunately, we were not able to recover them,” a Coast Guard officer told Komo News. “We did everything we could. Unfortunately, it was just a tragedy outcome and our hearts and thoughts are with the family and friends of the crew.”
Back in 2016, Deadliest Catch: Dungeon Cove featured a section of particularly dangerous waters off the coast of Newport, Oregon.
The bar is called Yaquina Bay, and it’s rich with Dungeness crabs that many fishermen make their living catching.
“Newport, Oregon is one of the last remaining fishing towns along the edge of the notoriously violent ‘Graveyard of the Pacific’ that stretches from Oregon to British Columbia,” the show wrote in a press release, per the Daily Mail.
“Here, generations of Dungeness crab fishermen and their families sacrifice everything that they have, including life itself, to carve an existence from the sea,” the press release continued. “Thousands of vessels and lives have been lost while battling the seas in what’s considered the deadliest commercial fishery in the world.”
Three years later, a boat called the Mary B II went across the Yaquina Bay bar to go crabbing in the same area.
The 42-foot boat was out crabbing for three days. When crossing the bar again to return home, the fishermen quickly had to call the Coast Guard for assistance.
“The Coast Guard was on scene quickly, even as it happened as vessel’s crew had asked for escort across the bar, so we were there very quickly,” Petty Officer Levi Reed told Komo News.
The Coast Guard remains on call in the area for emergencies like these. But the Mary B II was already battling 12- to 14-foot waves.
“Unfortunately, we were not able to recover them,” Officer Reed explained of the incident.
The bodies of two of the three crew members were recovered from the waters. A third crew member died trapped in the Mary B II.
James Lacey was found in the water. He was flown to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Joshua Porter was discovered on Nye Beach, north of the jetty. He, too, was unresponsive and pronounced dead.
Skipper Stephen Biernacki’s body was found on the hull of the boat after it was washed up on a jetty.
“The Yaquina Bay bar is a dangerous bar, as are all of the river bars in the Pacific Northwest,” Officer Reed said. “We did everything we could. Unfortunately, it was just a tragedy outcome and our hearts and thoughts are with the family and friends of the crew.”
For residents of Newport, tragedies like this are nothing new.
“This stuff happens, but it just doesn’t get any easier,” Gary Ripka, a commercial fisherman based in Newport who was featured on Deadliest Catch, told KEZI.
“It happens frequently enough that we actually have funds that help families during this time,” Taunette Dixon, president of the nonprofit Newport Fishermen’s Wives, explained to Komo News.
However, this year’s crab season and weather conditions have forced fishermen into riskier conditions than usual.
Fans of Deadliest Catch have expressed their grief at the Mary B II’s fate on Twitter.
“Heartbreaking,” one fan wrote.
“Rest in Peace,” said many more.
But Stephen’s mother, Mary Anderson, told fellow mourners that Stephen died exactly where he wanted to be: at sea.
“He loves the sea, and he told me that’s where he wants to be, in the sea,” Mary told KPTV. “And the other thing he said to me so many times, he said, ‘Mom, if I die at sea, don’t have any remorse for me because I’m doing what I love.'”
The Newport community held a vigil for the deceased fishermen on Wednesday at sunset. They gathered at Yaquina Bay, where the capsized Mary B II remains in the sea.