A lawsuit filed in Alaska by the grieving families of five fishermen targets an Oregon company for alleged wrongful death according to a report published yesterday in the Anchorage Daily News. Two of the five victims were also from Oregon, according to the newspaper.
The newspaper, quoting Alaska state troopers, reports that the five men drowned earlier this month when their “overloaded skiff swamped… in rough seas” near Cook Inlet, Alaska. The men were harvesting clams for the company. The suit says that the company “failed to train the men to pilot their aluminum skiff and neglected to provide proper safety equipment such as survival suits and two-way radios.” Notably, the newspaper says that when the men’s bodies were recovered only one of the five was wearing a life jacket. It adds that “the wrongful death suit claims the workers needed survival suits, not life vests, to survive in the Inlet,” referring to the cold seas off Alaska’s coast.
Tellingly, the paper reports that another worker told investigating troopers that he believed the boat was overloaded, particularly granted the windy conditions prevalent in the area, and refused to get aboard. Among the charges made in the suit is the claim that Clackamas-based Pacific Seafood did not give its workers sufficient training in “water-safety rules, emergency life-saving lessons or how many pounds of clams the skiff could safely carry.”
Like our logging industry here in Oregon, commercial fishing off the Alaska coast is one of the most dangerous ways in America to earn a living. That places a special burden on employers to ensure that workers have all of the training they need as well as equipment that is safe to operate and is properly maintained. An Oregon wrongful death attorney would be hard-pressed not to agree with the statement that the reported circumstances of this case, at the very least, raise significant and troubling questions and merit closer examination by our courts.
Anchorage Daily News: Families sue over deaths of commercial Inlet clam diggers