Crab fishing is a dangerous profession and that was made tragically clear on Tuesday night’s emotional episode of “Deadliest Catch.”
On the Discovery Channel show, the captains were devastated to learn that the Destination, the ship of their friend Jeff Hathaway, had gone missing off the coast of Alaska. Hathaway and his crew couldn’t be found.
The Bering Sea had been fierce all winter and as the episode began, veteran Sig Hansen noted, “We have had our close calls. It makes me wonder, how many chances do we get?”
Sadly, unbeknownst to the skippers, the coast guard was searching for a missing vessel that had set off a distress signal.
Captain Keith Colburn’s boat The Wizard was leaning dangerously to one side and his brother discovered water was flowing into a vent. Monte Colburn improvised a fix, sticking an old plastic survival suit over the leak.
On the Saga, Jake Anderson was still dealing with the loss of crew man Luce, who had gotten injured in a deck fall and had to be taken back to port for medical treatment. Anderson had picked up two new deck hands and set sail again.
But chaos ensued on Feb. 11, 2017, when the coast guard went in search of six people who had been fishing on board the boat called Destination. It was lost at sea.
Searchers spotted a tarp, crab pot gear, and other debris, including a life ring with the name on the boat on it, in the water. They looked desperately for survivors, but had no luck.
A friend phoned Hansen to tell him the bad news about his buddy Hathaway and his deck hands being missing.
Hansen was overcome with emotion, as the guy said, “I pray they find somebody alive.”
Hansen wiped tears away as the man told him, “I know you and Jeff are tight. I wanted to let you know.”
Hansen asked a producer for a time out and lit a cigarette with worry etched on his face.
“That’s f***ed up,” he finally said. “I don’t know if I should tell my guys. We’re all friends.”
Hansen decided to “get it out of the way,” and with a string of expletives, told his crew men.
He announced that the Destination and its entire crew was missing.
“Jeff’s one of my best friends. We fished together for years,” Hansen said. “Say a little prayer for Destination.”
Everyone was shaken.
From the wheelhouse, Hansen then called Anderson on the Saga to tell him.
“I don’t even believe it. I don’t know what to say,” Anderson sighed. He, too, told his deck workers what was going on.
The Coast Guard helicopters and ships searched for hours to find the missing crew.
“It’s amazing how fast fishing boats sink,” said a pilot. “No joy.”
Hearing that, Colburn took a break to cry on his ship.
Hansen was devastated and said, “They’re gone. They’re gone. I gotta call my wife.”
His wife June couldn’t believe it when Hansen told her, “They can’t find anybody.”
June asked him to come home.
On the Saga, a mourning Anderson said it was the risk everybody took working at sea and like being at war, they had to shake it off.
But Hansen decided he needed a break from his job.
“I’m freaked out. I just lost one of my best friends,” Hansen told his crew. “I’ve done as much as I can do….I want to get out of here as quick as possible.” His brother Edgar agreed to take over.
Hansen said, “I’m spooked. I’m heartbroken. My wife asked me to come home. I want to go.”
The search for the Destination was called off after three days.
At the end of the season’s most heartbreaking episode, “Deadliest Catch” paid tribute to the men who had been lost.
In addition to Hathaway, the presumed dead men were Larry O’Grady, Charles Glenn Jones, Raymond Vincler, Darrik Seibold, and Kai Hamik.