Settlement in deadly crab boat sinking calls for over $9M

 Photo from U.S. Coast Guard Alaska
Photo from U.S. Coast Guard Alaska (KTUU)
Published: Nov. 3, 2020 at 4:38 PM AKST
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(AP) -The owners of a Seattle-managed crab boat have reached a settlement of more than $9 million with two survivors and the families of four crew members who died last year when the Scandies Rose went down in the Gulf of Alaska.

Attorney Michael Barcott, who is representing the Washington and Alaska owners, confirmed the settlement and said it would be funded by insurance, The Seattle Times reported. Barcott said a document disclosing the settlement is expected to be filed Monday in Tacoma.

Jerry Markham, an attorney for three families of the deceased crew members, also confirmed the settlement and said the state Superior Court is expected to review the agreement and determine how the money will be divided up.

The Scandies Rose went down Dec. 31 after it left the port of Kodiak, Alaska to the Bering Sea to pursue cod and crab, authorities said. The National Weather Service had forecast freezing spray, which can cause ice to form on a vessel resulting in added weight that can severely undermine vessel stability.

The case was scheduled to go to trial next year to determine damages, but it is no longer expected to happen. A Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation was launched earlier this year to investigate.

“While this is a tragic case, we do have some survivors, and the opportunity to glean some important information from them,” Board Chair Cmdr. Greg Callaghan said.

Barcott said five crew members died when the Scandies Rose sunk, including partial boat owner and Captain Gary Cobban Jr., 60, and his son David Cobban, 30, whose family will receive other insurance money and was not part of the settlement.

The other crew members who died were boat engineer Art Ganacias, 50; Brock Rainey, 47; and Seth “Sorin” Rousseau-Gano, 31. The two survivors Dean Gribble Jr. of Edmonds and Jon Lawler of Anchorage recalled the details from the night, including how they were both knocked off the boat by a large wave.

“I was just floating alone in the dark for a half an hour, getting tossed in those waves … You are so small out there,” Gribble said in an interview last week.

Both Lawler and Gribble eventually made it to a life raft but they had no locator beacons and an emergency light in the raft eventually went out. They said a swimmer from a Coast Guard helicopter reached them the following morning when they were lifted up and flown to safety.

The owners of the boat have maintained that they exercised “due diligence” to make the vessel fit for service and bore “no fault” in the sinking. Under federal maritime law, they argued their liability was limited to the value of the vessel, which was near nothing.

The families' attorneys contested the attempt to limit liability, alleging the boat was not seaworthy when it left Alaska, and that a reasonable owner would have known the risks. They noted vessel repairs to rusty and decayed steel that were not previously tested.

Callaghan said the investigation is exploring a range of issues that could have contributed to the sinking, and is examining what kind of pressures, if any, the crew were under due to fishing regulations. The board also will look at crew training, and how the lifesaving equipment performed, he said.

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