NEWPORT, Ore. -- A community on the Yaquina Bay is mourning the deaths of three fishermen after their boat capsized Tuesday night on the Oregon Coast.
U.S. Coast Guard officials said the Mary B II fishing boat requested a Coast Guard escort across the Yaquina Bay bar in Newport due to 12 to 15-foot waves. The Coast Guard crew left the Yaquina Bay station and at 10:13 p.m., Oregon State Police was told the fishing vessel had capsized with three people on board.
They began searching immediately and the U.S. Coast Guard said their helicopter found James Lacey, 48, of South Toms River, New Jersey, in the ocean. They transported him to a hospital in Newport, where he was pronounced dead.
At 12:28 a.m., Newport Fire Department found Joshua Porter, 50, of Toledo on the shore near Nye Beach, where he was pronounced dead.
The Mary B II ultimately ran aground on the beach near the north side of the Yaquina Bay North Jetty. Stephen Biernacki, 50, of Barnegat Township, New Jersey was found with the boat and was pronounced dead at the scene. Biernacki was the boat's skipper.
KEZI 9 News spoke with fishermen who knew Porter, and they said he was loved by everyone who knew and got to work with him on the docks.
They said weather conditions were rough on the coast Tuesday night but trusted the men's judgment to head out onto the water.
Gary Ripka, a fellow fishermen, said the men were facing 18-foot swells and that Porter was just filling in on the Mary B II for the night trying to make extra money for his family.
"He was real easy going," Ripka said. "Just recently got married. A good family man. A father. Really heavily involved in the church."
Ripka said Porter used to work for him on boats in the past and described Porter as his "right-hand man."
"This is a tough day," he said. "Any way you look at it. The weather is crummy out here and you just, its a gloomy day, and it's just a tough day for our community."
Brett Hamrick, the owner of Seawate Seafood in Newport said he gave the three men bait before they went out to sea and said he was devastated to learn they weren't returning.
He said the men were out crabbing when their boat capsized.
Ripka and Hamrick said they didn't know the two men from New Jersey personally, but they trusted their judgment when it came to heading out on the water that night.