Fishing Boat That Sank Off of Washington Coast in March Located by Investigators

On Sunday, a fishing boat that was lost at sea earlier this year was found approximately 20 miles from Leadbetter Point near Willapa Bay. The United States Coast Guard and a maritime salvage business located the Lady Cecilia in nearly 500 feet of water. The 70-foot fishing ship reportedly sank without warning in early March. No distress signals were issued and all four men who were aboard the boat are believed to have drowned in the incident.

After the ship sank this past winter, the Coast Guard arrived at the scene of the accident in response to an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) signal. Alerts from EPIRB signals are normally issued only after a device mounted high on a ship becomes submerged. Upon arrival, a Coast Guard helicopter reportedly found only an oil slick and an empty life raft. Unfortunately, skipper Dave Nichols, fisheries observer Christopher Langel, and deckhands Jason Bjaranson and Luke Jensen were nowhere to be found. All four men are presumed dead.

It is unclear exactly what caused the 34-year-old fishing boat to sink. In the past, a rogue wave, a collision with a cargo ship, ongoing maintenance issues, and alleged safety deficiencies aboard the vessel were proposed as possible causes for the tragedy. In April, the Coast Guard conducted a hearing during which electricians, mechanics, and others who were familiar with the boat provided testimony regarding the physical condition of the Lady Cecilia prior to the incident. Investigators reportedly hope to use data from the vessel itself in order to determine why it unexpectedly sank. Once video and other information is examined, the findings will be discussed during a public hearing before a formal Board of Investigators in Astoria, Oregon.

Fishermen and other people who work offshore normally have little recourse through Washington or other state workers' compensation laws. Instead, workers who are employed on a ship or other marine vessel are protected by the Jones Act. In 1920, the Act was passed by Congress in order to provide employees who are hurt or killed on a vessel at sea with a cause of action against an employer. Normally, a Jones Act claim will focus on a marine vessel's lack of seaworthiness or an act of negligence allegedly committed by the employer. The provisions of the Act are significant because such recourse was previously unavailable to workers through general maritime law.

For the Jones Act to apply, a marine vessel must be floating and the hurt worker must qualify as a seaman as defined under the law. According to the Jones Act, an injured worker may receive financial compensation for personal injuries, maintenance and cure, as well as non-pecuniary damages like pain and suffering. If you were hurt, or a loved one was killed while working on a marine vessel, you should contact a qualified maritime lawyer to discuss your options for recovery.

If you or your loved ones were injured while working at sea, contact Seattle Maritime Attorneys John Merriam and Gordon Webb. Our hardworking Puget Sound Jones Act lawyers have nearly 50 years of combined experience helping those who were hurt while working or traveling by sea receive the compensation that their injuries merit. Mr. Merriam and Mr. Webb handle Jones Act and maritime injury cases that originated throughout the world including the Gulf of Alaska, The Gulf of Mexico, the Bering Sea, and the Caribbean Sea. To speak with a dedicated maritime law attorney today, please do not hesitate to call lawyers John Merriam and Gordon Webb toll free at (877) 800-1007 or contact us through the law firm's website.

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