On the night of June 26, 2010 the fishing vessel Paul Revere, a salmon setnet skiff, capsized while setting their gear in preparation for the start of fishing season. The skipper and her two crew members were thrown in the waters of Bristol Bay near South Naknek, AK. The crew spent two harrowing hours drifting with the current and trying to signal for help. Eventually they were able to rescue themselves by catching onto a setnet line and pulling themselves hand over hand toward shore. The skipper and her crew were wearing inflatable PFDs as part of their standard work gear.
They attribute their survival to the flotation and peace of mind provided by these devices. Their story shows how effective PFDs can be in preventing fatalities among commercial fishermen. We know the details of this story only because the PFDs used by the crew allowed them to survive much longer in the water than they would have without them. Without their PFDs, the fishermen most certainly would have succumbed to the effects of cold water immersion and drowned.
We interviewed the skipper and one of her crewmen to capture their story and highlight the role their PFDs played in preventing them from becoming statistics. The resulting video, Paul Revere: A Story of Survival in Bristol Bay, is available now on the NIOSH website and the NIOSH YouTube channelfor viewing and download. Since their accident, the skipper and crew have become vocal advocates for the use of PFDs on deck while working and use their experience to encourage family and friends in the industry to use comfortable PFDs on their own vessels.
Commercial fishing is one of the deadliest occupations in the country and 83% of those fatalities are the result of vessel disasters (52%) or falls overboard (31%).
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