Search suspended for 4 missing off Wash. coast

GENE JOHNSON Associated Press Published:

SEATTLE (AP) -- The Coast Guard suspended its search Sunday for four men missing from a fishing trawler off the Washington coast, saying it's unlikely the men are still alive.

Petty Officer Shawn Eggert said crews in Coast Guard cutters and an MH-60 helicopter covered more than 1,300 square miles since the 70-foot Lady Cecelia sent a distress signal early Saturday. He said they've searched longer than anyone might have persevered in the water.

"We have searched far beyond what the capacity of somebody to survive in these conditions might be," he said.

The Coast Guard identified the four missing men as: 42-year-old Dave Nickels and 38-year-old Jason Bjaranson of Warrenton, Ore.; 25-year-old Chris Langel of Kaukauna, Wis.; and 19-year-old Luke Jensen of Ilwaco, Wash.

A distress signal came from the 70-foot Lady Cecelia early Saturday, and rescue crews searched through the night after finding debris, an empty lifeboat and an oil sheen several miles off the coast.

The fishing vessel has a home port in Warrenton, Ore., and is registered to Dale Kent of Bay City, Ore. He could not immediately be reached by The Associated Press.

"The life raft was in no condition to be used," Eggert said. "There was a lot of debris, a sheen and the (beacon)."

The Lady Cecelia was first registered in Oregon in 1991. Eggert said he didn't have details on the debris, or whether the vessel was still intact. He said the Guard does not yet know a cause for the damage.

Overnight weather off the southern Washington coast consisted of a slowly moving front that created moderate waves but not stormy conditions.

A buoy located 20 nautical miles off the Washington coast recorded water temperatures of 43 degrees at 4 a.m. Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard said one of its helicopters brought four people to safety after their commercial vessel went aground near Newport, Ore. The vessel was reported aground on the south jetty at Yaquina Bay about 5 p.m. Saturday.

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Nigel Duara contributed from Portland, Ore.