Coast Guard says deck flooding likely caused deadly 2023 capsize near Sitka

A U.S. Coast Guard marine casualty investigation into the capsizing of a charter fishing boat and the death of all five aboard on May 28, 2023, near Sitka has determined that the Awakin likely capsized after its well deck flooded in rough seas.

The investigators cited the skipper’s decision to steer close to Low Island as a precipitating factor in the sinking. They also took note that the boat had no life raft or automatic emergency beacon.

The first alert about the emergency was a call to the Coast Guard from the Kingfisher Lodge reporting one of its charter boats was late returning. Emergency response took more than two hours and was further delayed by helicopter fueling mishaps at Coast Guard Air Station Sitka, the investigation found.

The charter boat was a 30-foot-long aluminum Orca-model boat built by Allen Marine in 2005 and had minimal provisions for draining water from the well deck, Coast Guard lead investigator Cmdr. Nate Menefee said at a public meeting May 17 in Sitka.

The vessel was close to Low Island in shallow water and at low tide, “which brought the vessel to a hazardous area increasing the likelihood of encountering large swells and breaking surf,” he said. “The navigation of Awakin near Low Island is a major factor of this incident. Flooding the vessel’s well deck and limited drainage openings would have substantially impacted vessel stability.”

Menefee noted a degree of uncertainty regarding the final minutes aboard the vessel, saying the Coast Guard “cannot definitively say exactly what caused Awakin to capsize.”

Sitka charter guide Morgan Robidou, 32, was at the helm. His sport fishing clients were two couples, Brandi Tyau, 56, and her partner Robert Solis, 61, of Canoga Park, California; and Danielle Agcaoili, 53, and her husband Maury Agcaolli, 57, of Waipahu, Hawaii.

Robidou was a licensed boat master, with 835 days of sea service in Alaska, the Coast Guard reported.


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