Relief for fishing family after ship runs aground in Alaska


by By / KING 5 News

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 24 at 12:37 PM

Video: Relief for fishing family after ship runs aground in Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The distress call went out at 4:11 a.m. Thursday morning.

"We drifted aground on the beach and we are unable to back off the beach."

This was the crew of the Mar-Gun, a 112-foot fishing trawler with home port in Seattle, radioing for help moments after it started taking on water just off the coast of an island in the Bering Sea.

"We are... hard aground... on Saint Paul Island," came across the radio chatter.


The U.S. Coast Guard says an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter rescued all five crew members aboard, and all were unharmed.

Two of those crew members are 42-year-old Don Stanfield, the first mate; and 21-year-old Dan Hankins, a crewman in his second year fishing.

The two are uncle and nephew, the latest in four generations of commercial fishermen, according to relatives.

"Ever since I've been alive my dad's been a fisherman and nothing like this has ever happened," said Stanfield's daughter, Holly Stanfield.

"It's very dangerous, but we've never lost a family member, in the four generations we've never lost anyone," said Jill Hankins, who talked to her son hours after the incident. "He told me not to worry."

Family members say the Mar-Gun set out for Alaska in early January to catch Pollock.

The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the crash. Reports say weather at the time included sustained winds of 45 miles an hour with gusts up to 57 miles an hour and seas cresting at 5 to 6 feet.

"[Daniel] said he was just going to bed and all of a sudden he heard the boat just being ripped apart, and it woke everyone up," said Hankins' sister Kaitlyn Hankins. "Everyone was just running around getting their survival gear on and turning all the pumps to pump out the water."

These are the dangers that concern fishing families every season. In October, seven of 11 crew members aboard the vessel Katmai died when the ship capsized in Alaskan waters.

Hankins' and Stanfield's family say they're thankful the Mar-Gun did not have the same tragic fate. They expect the crew to return to Seattle by the end of the week.

"My brother's on that boat, and my son, so it's like a double jeopardy if anything ever happened," said Jill Hankins. "So I just say lots of prayers."

"My prayers were answered, they're okay."

Saint George Island is located 760 miles southwest of Anchorage.

The trawler is carrying 15,000 gallons of diesel, but no fuel spill has been reported.