Feature Article Shares Grueling Tale of Search and Survival of Lobster Fisherman Lost at Sea

January 7, 2014

A recent article introduced a heart-warming tale of the survival of a lobster fisherman who managed to stay alive in the North Atlantic for almost 12 hours until the Coast Guard found and rescued him. Washington fishermen and their families can relate to the tale of stress and ultimate joy, as all coastal fishermen understand the dangers of the business. The fisherman was working alone in the middle of the night, trying to pump water into the holding tanks to chill. To reach the tanks, he had to move two 200 pound coolers using a box hook attached to the plastic handle on the bottom of the cooler. The handle snapped and the fisherman fell backward, slid across the open deck, and fell into the ocean.

The fisherman used the minimal resources around him to survive, including his own pair of unique boots. The fisherman noticed that his boots were helping him stay afloat; rather than kick them off to shed dead weight, he turned them upside down and placed them under his armpits as flotation devices. The fisherman also headed to buoys that seemed to be in the flight plan of the helicopters overhead. Using some buoys as extra flotation devices and the swell of the waves as a way to have extended sight of the ocean, the fisherman managed to use his limited energy and reach a set of buoys and traps that he knew belonged to fellow fishermen in the area. Overall, the fisherman credited staying positive and focused as the key to his own survival.

1360018_96603974.jpgOne particular coast guard member in the article was credited with reducing the search area that ultimately located the fisherman. This particular guard member had also worked as a commercial fisherman, and understood the daily activities and language of the seamen better than anyone else. This proved especially advantageous in search-and-rescue operations and factored into the success of this one. The guard member went over the evening with the fisherman's fellow crew member, and together they narrowed the time of the fall overboard and the path of the ship.

Familiarity of the work and daily activities helped the Coast Guard and fishing community find the overboard fisherman. As experience and understanding of commercial fishing helped rescue the fisherman in the article, it has also helped the Washington maritime attorneys, John Merriam and Gordon Webb, litigate admiralty law cases to the fullest so they can maximize compensation for their clients. Both attorneys have over 15 years of combined experience working at sea in addition to over 50 years of experience litigating and negotiating maritime law cases.

Tales of survival and rescue are unfortunately rare when commercial fishermen go overboard, and understanding what financial relief is available is crucial for the family members of fishermen. The fisherman in the article co-owned the boat he worked on and had the support of his fellow owner and crew member, but other fishermen who experience injury or death-causing accidents may work for someone else and with people he or she do not know very well. Vessel owners are under a duty to operate seaworthy vessels and crew members are expected to work safely alongside each other, however both often fail in those duties and create the hazardous conditions that lead to injury or death.

Beneficiaries of the decedent may be able to recover under the federal Jones Act if the death occurs within 3 nautical miles of the shore, or under the federal Death On the High Seas Act (DOHSA) if the death happens beyond 3 nautical miles. Under both Acts, the family members of the deceased may recover for funeral expenses, lost wages, and the loss of care, comfort, and companionship. The possibility of punitive damages is only available under the Jones Act when there is willful and wanton misconduct by the at-fault party. If you have had a spouse or family member that was killed while onboard, contact the Washington maritime wrongful death attorneys, John Merriam and Gordon Webb for a free, confidential consultation today at 877-800-1007.

More Blog Posts:

Second Circuit Court Of Appeals Decision Bars Economic Recovery In Absence Of Physical Injury, Maritime Lawyer Blog, December 13, 2013

Nation's Focus On Fair Wages Centers On Washington, Maritime Lawyer Blog, December 6, 2013