A fishing charter boat, the Awakin, was found partially submerged off an island in southeast Alaska last May. According to a U.S. Coast Guard investigation, the boat likely capsized after its well deck flooded in rough seas, resulting in the deaths of five people, including two vacationing sisters and their partners.

More than 100 people attended a Coast Guard town hall presentation in Sitka last week, where the findings of the investigation were shared.

The investigation revealed that survival options were limited once the 30-foot boat capsized on May 28, 2023. The Awakin was not required to carry an emergency raft and had minimal provisions for draining water from the well deck. Coast Guard lead investigator Cmdr. Nate Menefee explained that a sudden flooding of the well deck by a large swell initiated the incident. The vessel’s close proximity to Low Island in shallow water at low tide increased the likelihood of encountering large swells and breaking surf, contributing to the capsize.

Cmdr. Menefee noted there is some uncertainty around the final minutes of the trip, and the Coast Guard cannot definitively determine the exact cause of the capsize. There were no witnesses and no distress calls received.

At 2:43 p.m. on May 28, the boat’s tracking system recorded its last known location just south of Low Island, near a popular fishing spot. One passenger trapped in the cabin attempted five emergency calls on their cellphone between 3:01 and 3:12 p.m., but none connected. A draft text message reading “Call 911” was found unsent on the phone. The last photos recovered from the phone, taken at 2:43 p.m., show a passenger holding a rockfish.

The lodge where the charter originated reported the boat overdue around 5:30 p.m. A Coast Guard helicopter was launched at 6:55 p.m., but delays occurred due to fueling issues. The helicopter located the boat partially submerged shortly after launch.

The victims were charter guide Morgan Robidou, 32; Brandi Tyau, 56, and her partner Robert Solis, 61, of Canoga Park, California; and Danielle Agcaoili, 53, and her husband Maury Agcaoili, 57, of Waipahu, Hawaii. Autopsies confirmed drowning as the cause of death for the four whose bodies were recovered.

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