Julio Morales hired a lawyer and agreed to a settlement that allowed him to buy a modest home in Southern California. He hasn’t been working since the sinking, but has been thinking about getting another job in Alaska, maybe in the oil industry. Julio has some arthritis that he attributes to the accident, as well as quite a few nightmares. Every time he smells diesel fuel, he tastes it as well.
For almost a year after the sinking, several members of Julio’s family refused to speak to him. They blamed him for Byron’s death—for bringing Byron up to Alaska in the first place. Julio rarely sees his cousin Marco, who went right back to fishing. Marco worked for the FCA for another year, and then was arrested on an outstanding warrant as he tried to cross back into the United States after a trip to Mexico. He’s still in jail.
Jeremy Freitag also got a lawyer, and ended up with enough cash to buy that house in central Oregon. He promised his mother he’d never go back to Alaska. He’s studying for his captain’s license and hopes to eventually run a sport fishing boat out of the tourist town of Newport, Oregon.
Eric Haynes is at home in Las Vegas, working toward a college degree in culinary management. He’s thought about going back up to Alaska. He misses it sometimes, though he’s not sure he’d be welcome back on another FCA boat after filing a lawsuit against the company.
A little more than a year after the sinking, Eric met Karen Jacobsen, Captain Pete’s daughter, at the Fishermen’s Memorial in Seattle. Karen had planned a sunrise service at the monument where her father’s name—along with those of Byron Carrillo, Dan Cook, and David Silveira—had been inscribed months before. Karen was shattered by her father’s death and sees great significance in the fact that the tragedy occurred on Easter—enough so that she chose to hold the ceremony at sunrise on Easter morning, rather than on the anniversary of the date the Ranger was lost.
In the two years since the boat sank, many more names have been added to the Seattle memorial, which is located at the working port known as Fishermen’s Terminal. Several of the names are of men from the ninety-three-foot head-and-gut boatKatmai, a one-time shrimp trawler that sank out of Dutch Harbor six months after the Ranger (and that was not enrolled in the Coast Guard’s ACSA program). There were eleven men on board. Seven died. At least two of the deceased Katmai fishermen had previously worked on FCA boats.
The ship was even farther away from help, and it took the Coast Guard many hours to reach the scene. Jayhawk pilot Shawn Tripp was one of the men on the case. He had been predeployed to Cold Bay, for the fall red king crab season. The future of aircrew predeployment to St. Paul, meanwhile, is expected to continue despite the long-anticipated permanent closure of the Coast Guard’s LORAN station in February 2010.
THE COAST GUARD RESCUE TEAMS that responded to the Alaska Ranger case piled up awards, especially rescue swimmers O’Brien Starr-Hollow and Abram Heller, who was awarded one of aviation’s highest honors: the Distinguished Flying Cross. The rest of the men on the crews of the 60 and 65 helicopters were each awarded Coast Guard Air Medals.
Soon after the sinking, Brian McLaughlin made the effort to get in touch with the families of the deceased fishermen. He talked with Karen Jacobsen; and he and his wife, Amy, met with Pete Jacobsen’s brother, Billy, a retired tugboat captain who lives outside of Seattle. Forty-two lives were saved on March 23, 2008, but some of the Coast Guard rescuers had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that they hadn’t saved all of them. McLaughlin gave his Air Medal to Billy Jacobsen, who keeps it on his living room mantel.
McLaughlin has since been promoted a rank to Lieutenant Commander, and in 2009 moved with his family to Mobile, Alabama, where he’s now an instructor for new Coast Guard pilots. The family once again made the cross-country trip a summer-long RV journey.
Ed Cook continued working for the FCA for about six months after his brother’s death. And he continued making notes about safety concerns on his daily record sheets. In April 2008, less than a month after the tragedy that killed five men, Ed repeatedly noted that the Warrior’s deck crew was tying open watertight doors at sea. By early 2009, Ed had found a new job.
Beyond Ed’s documented concerns, the FCA continued to experience legal and safety problems. In the fall of 2008, the company agreed to pay a $449,700 fine to settle a series of environmental violations, including mishandling prohibited species, fishing in a protected marine area, and multiple counts of harassment against NMFS observers assigned to its boats. Just a couple of weeks before the settlement was announced, a senior crew member on board the Alaska Juris had contacted law enforcement to report that he’d been assaulted by the ship’s fish master. In June 2009 the FCA trawler Alaska Victory cracked a hull plate while transiting through ice. And in early July, the Alaska Warrior’s Japanese boatswain fell overboard after becoming tangled in fishing gear. He wasn’t wearing a life jacket. Like Ranger fish master Satoshi Konno, the boatswain’s body has still not been found.