Hearing to probe mysterious sinking of Seattle-based fishing vessel

Gail O'Grady says her husband, Larry O'Grady, has been fishing on the Destination for the past 20 years, and that he's been fishing in Alaska for close to 30. She and her husband live in Poulsbo. (Photo courtesy of Kyle Stubbs).

SEATTLE - It's been six months since a well-maintained Seattle-based fishing vessel sank with six crew members on board. And now officials are hoping to answer key questions about what happened.

A public hearing that began Monday morning will try to help pinpoint what caused the 98-foot fishing boat Destination to sink suddenly off the coast of Alaska last Feb. 11. The entire hearing is expected to take about two weeks.

"With our primary investigative work and some of the evidence we are able to capture I feel confident that we can move towards some solid conclusions," said U.S. Coast Guard Commander Scott Muller.

The hearing, convened by the Coast Guard's Marine Board of Investigation at the Federal Building downtown, is expected to focus on several factors like weather, operation of the boat and the mechanical safety history of the vessel.

A radio alert on Feb. 11 was the last time anyone heard from the Destination, which was fishing for snow crab at the time. Search crews found debris and an oil sheen - but no sign of the crew or a life raft.

Just three weeks ago, the missing vessel was found on the bottom of the sea off St. George, Alaska, by another vessel carrying out a scientific mission in the area with multi-beam sonar equipment that creates 3D images of the ocean floor.

The boat's owner, David Wilson of Seattle, testified Monday that drugs and alcohol were not allowed aboard the vessel.

He also answered questions about the vessel's construction, stability and regulatory compliance, as well as safety and crew member duties and qualifications - including the captain's.

"He was very capable and very knowledgeable about that boat. Remember he's been in it 23 years. I had total confidence in his decisions and the crew members," Wilson said.

Wilson also discussed the vessel's maintenance history, saying it had last been in dry dock in the summer of 2015 and the steering had been rebuilt last year. He added that the vessel's life-saving gear and crew training were all up-to-date.

"We want to know what happened," Judy Hamick, mother of Destination crewman Kai Hamick, said earlier. "This is a good boat. Why did this have to happen? Knowing that they found the boat is relief, but we know we still don't have any bodies to recover."

Kai Hamick's father says he hopes the Board of Investigation will learn something from the hearing that will prevent similar tragedies in the future.

"If there's an outcome to him giving his life, it's to make the industry a little better, a little bit safer," Tom Hamick said.

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