MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. — The Coast Guard suspended its search Sunday evening for Bryan Moore Oberg, a Dungeness crab fisherman who fell overboard from the 47-foot commercial fishing vessel Chief Joseph about eight miles west of the South Spit in Humboldt Bay.
The suspension came after Coast Guard crews from Station Humboldt Bay, Air Station Humboldt Bay and Air Station Sacramento conducted an 11-hour search that they said covered almost 700 square miles.
Oberg and John Terry, his usual skipper and friend, spent weeks last year working on their vessel at the Port of Ilwaco boatyard. He was a well-liked member of the close-knit fishing community on the Northwest coast. He wasn’t working with Terry at the time of the accident.
On Monday morning, his sister Brittanie Oberg posted this heartrending plea: “He is my brother, his name is Bryan Moore Oberg, please pray that we at least recover his body, and anyone in the California coastal area check the beaches. Please, I beg you, we need his body, we need closure, pray for him and my mom, that in this nightmare she can recover her sons body. I am sitting here, hopelessly writing strangers because I don’t know what else to do. No one is looking for him anymore, and it’s been just over 24 hours. They won’t let us contact the deck hand that was rescued, the last person to see him alive. I beg everyone that reads this that is able, to please check the beaches for my big brother. My family and I need this closure, we have to find him. Please.”
Among many other sympathetic comments on social media was this: “This is shocking. Bryan was a super young man and a hard, hard worker. I enjoyed our visits during haul outs. He always had a smile and listening ear. Bless you, Bryan. My sincere sympathy to all your loved ones.”
The Coast Guard said the captain — identified elsewhere as Jeff Angelo — was able to rescue one of the fishermen, but Oberg couldn’t be found. The crewman who was rescued, whose name has not been released, had no reported injuries.
“One person was retrieved, but the sight of the other person in the water was lost,” Operations Specialist Sunderman of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay told the Lost Coast Outpost Sunday afternoon. “We activated the search and rescue alarm and we got a helicopter launched; they were on scene by 1:50 a.m.”
A Coast Guard spokesman said the search was suspended only after all possibilities had been exhausted.
“It is with a heavy heart the Coast Guard makes the decision to suspend a search-and-rescue case,” said Capt. Greg Fuller, the Sector Humboldt Bay commander. “We extend our deepest condolences to this man’s loved ones and the entire fishing community.”
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Humboldt Bay was first on scene at 1:50 a.m., followed by a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat crew from Coast Guard Station Humboldt Bay. A C-27 Spartan fixed-wing aircraft crew from Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento arrived an hour later, and the crews searched the area continuously until the case was suspended at about 1:15 p.m.
The on-scene weather at the beginning of the search consisted of 53-degree air and 52-degree water temperatures. Cold Pacific seawater, rough winter seas and other factors make the West Coast Dungeness crab fishery among the most dangerous in the nation. This was the first fatality in the 2017-18 season, which didn’t see harvests until Jan. 25, following weeks of delays past the traditional Dec. 1 start date.