Coast Guard confirms three fishermen dead after boat capsizes near Yaquina Bay

Image of Josh Porter and his wife, Stephen Bierbacki and James Lacey, and James Lacey and his wife - Images from family members.jpg

The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed Wednesday morning that three fishermen who were on a boat when it capsized Tuesday night were killed.

The Dungeness crab fishing boat, the Mary B II, capsized while crossing the Yaquina Bay bar Tuesday night in 12- to 14-foot seas, according to the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard recovered one body, 48-year-old James Lacey, from South Toms River, New Jersey, with a helicopter. He was taken to Pacific Communities Hospital where he was pronounced deceased. A second body, Joshua Porter, 50, from Toledo, Oregon, washed ashore near Nye Beach.

The Mary B II eventually ran aground on the beach near the north side of the Yaquina Bay North Jetty. The boat skipper, Stephen Biernacki, 50, from Barnegat Township, New Jersey, was found deceased with the boat.

"We did everything we could. Unfortunately, it was just a tragic outcome and our hearts and thoughts are with the family and friends of the crew," said Petty Officer Levi Read with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard said there were only three people on board when the boat capsized.

Around 10 p.m., the Coast Guard said it warned a handful of boats that ocean conditions were about to get worse and they should head into the bay. The Mary B II radioed the Coast Guard that it was heading in and asked for an escort across the bar, but the 42-foot boat got too close to the North Jetty. The Coast Guard radioed to the boat's crew to try and get them in the middle of the channel, but a 16-foot breaker hit the 42-foot boat, sending it north of the jetty. The boat ended up in an area the Coast Guard couldn't safely get to.

"Under complete darkness and breaking waves in excess of 16 to 18 feet, it was unsafe for us to attempt to get our boats inside a rocky known hazardous area without jeopardizing the safety of our crew," said Executive Petty Officer Jason McCommons.

The Coast Guard isn't sure whether the men on board heard its message.

At 10:13 p.m., Oregon State Police learned the fishing vessel had capsized.

Somber Day at the Docks

Joshua Porter had fished on the Oregon Coast for at least 25 years. People came to the docks Wednesday to pay their respects. The people KATU spoke with said Porter was a staple of the fishing community. He was friendly and upbeat.

"I don't know a single person that could say a bad thing about him. He's just one of the most earnest people that I've ever dealt with," said Perry Bourdeaux, who fished with Porter. "He was always very nice, friendly, always had a big smile."

His wife, Denise, told KATU News by phone that her husband loved to travel and volunteer his time to people.

For all the people he helped, the news of his loss was devastating.

"This is Newport, and you know a lot of fishermen," said Sky Allen who knew Porter for years. "They don't come back, and it's really sad. But this one kind of hit close to home for a lot of people here."

The community gathered Wednesday night to honor the three men. A local nonprofit representing the families of the fishermen is accepting donations.

The Coast Guard said the government shutdown did not impact its coverage or service in the life-saving mission. The investigation into what may have gone wrong on the Mary B II is being handled by Oregon State Police.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off