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Captain Died to Save Crew After Boating Accident

A San Diego mom was worried when her daughter told her she was going to join the crew of a fishing vessel headed to Alaska, but she felt her daughter would survive a wreck. The Seattle Times reports that she said when her daughter, Nicole Esau, told her of her plans, she had a vision of her in the open sea, floating on a pile of wood. That's exactly the scene Esau found herself in after a boating accident sank her ship Tuesday night in the Gulf of Alaska.

The Northern Belle, a 75-foot fishing industry vessel, was heavily loaded with cargo in Seattle and was headed to Dillingham, Alaska where it would offload its cargo and move on to a herring fishery in Togiak, Alaska. One of the crewmembers, Robert Jack, said he was at the wheel when the boat began to turn on its side.


Jack told the crew to get into their survival suits and get into the lifeboat. The crew could not release the lifeboat because of the angle of the listing ship and began jumping over the side. At the last moment, Captain Robert Royer decided to make a mayday call from the wheelhouse because the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon had failed to activate. Jack says he believes this decision likely saved the lives of the rest of the crew, but possibly cost the captain his life.

After the captain made the frantic call to give the boat's position to the Coast Guard, he moved to jump off the ship, which was almost vertical in the water at that point. One of the crewmembers said he saw a heavy metal box hit Royer in the head. The crew believes that he drowned immediately.

Jack spotted a wooden platform floating in the water and made his way over to it. He then blew on his emergency whistle and Esau made her way over to him. He pulled her out of the freezing water and onto the pallet where they huddled for warmth. The other surviving crewmember floated nearby, but could not completely make it to the pallet. After 2 1/2 to 3 hours a Coast Guard helicopter flew overhead and dropped a life raft and flares. It later came back to recover the captain's body and to lift the crewmembers out of the water in a rescue basket and bring them to the hospital.

Esau's mother says her daughter was a woman bound for adventure. She said she was born a 2-pound baby and has been a miracle her whole life.


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