Dramatic video from the U.S. Coast Guard captured the moment Monday when the captain of a capsized Alaskan fishing boat risked his life to rescue one of his crewmen from choppy, 47-degree waters near Kodiak Island.
Captain Christian Trosvig and his crew of three had spent the afternoon trawling for salmon in the Kupreanof Strait off the coast of Alaska’s Raspberry Island when suddenly their vessel, the Grayling, started to take on water.
As the stern sank below the surface, a distress call went out to the other fishing boats in the area, according to KTUU. The Calista Marie arrived, and the men on board agreed to tow the troubled Grayling back to safety.
It should have been a quick trip, the shore only about a quarter-mile away. But soon after they got going the Grayling rolled over without warning, throwing Trosvig and the three other fishermen into the frigid, turbulent sea, the Alaska Dispatch News reported.
Fighting 6-foot waves, Trosvig and another crewman managed to pull themselves onto a lifeboat from their sinking vessel, Dale Pruitt, the Calista Marie’s captain, told the Dispatch News. Another crewman swam to the Calista Marie and climbed aboard, he said.
The fourth member of the Grayling was nowhere to be found.
Pruitt told the Dispatch News that his men and crews from other nearby vessels scanned the sea for the missing fisherman.
“That was a scary moment,” he said.
He radioed the Coast Guard an emergency message saying the Grayling had capsized and one of its crew was lost, according to Alaska Native News. A helicopter on a training flight more than 50 miles away was dispatched to help.
Some 20 minutes passed with no sign of the fisherman.
Then, finally, his limp body drifted to the surface – 50 yards away, right next to the overturned Grayling.
Trosvig dove in. Around the same time, the Coast Guard’s MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter arrived, piloted by Lt. Kevin Riley, who described the scene to Alaska Public Media.
“We had just made one pass, maybe two, searching overhead,” Riley said. “We saw visually and in our sensor the crew member that was missing, basically floating.”
Riley lowered the helicopter and watched the captain jump into the water.
“It looked like he was swimming very fast,” he said of Trosvig. “I’m sure the water was cold. It was probably in the upper 40s out there. But he was swimming extremely fast considering he was in a life jacket.”
Conditions were treacherous, Riley added in comments to KTUU, saying the high waves, the overturned boat and the nets and rigging floating around the men made the rescue especially risky.
Shaky footage from the helicopter shows Trosvig with an orange life jacket strapped to his shoulders paddling up to the fisherman and grabbing hold of him by his right arm. The fisherman appears unresponsive, bobbing up and down as waves roll over the two men and water splashes up from the sides of a vessel near them. At one point, Trosvig appears to lose his grip and the fisherman slips below the surface, disappearing from view. Trosvig plunges under to retrieve him.
Moments later, a small boat appears in the frame. A man on board throws them a rope and an orange float and pulls them to the vehicle’s aft. The video ends as the men begin lifting the fisherman out of the water.
Once on board, Trosvig immediately started performing CPR, Pruitt told the Dispatch News. After about five minutes, Pruitt said, the fisherman was revived.
The Coast Guard told local media that the fisherman was taken by helicopter to the Kodiak Municipal Airport, where medics treated him for hypothermia and aspiration of diesel fuel.
“Chris was the hero,” Pruitt told the Dispatch News. “He saved that guy’s life.”
Riley, the helicopter pilot, also praised Trosvig’s actions. “That fisherman didn’t hesitate,” he said in a statement. “It is a testament to how tough those fishermen are and how far they will go to help their fellow Alaskans.”
Officials said it wasn’t clear what caused the Grayling to capsize. The crew members’ names have not been released, nor has the rescued fisherman’s medical condition.
Trosvig, a resident of Kodiak, Alaska, has been fishing in the area for more than 20 years, according to local media. In a brief Facebook post Tuesday, he said he had lost his twin brother “to the sea.”
“It was not going to happen again,” Trosvig wrote. “To God be the glory for giving me courage and strength to get my man out of the water and bring him back to life.”