October 28, 2002
Galaxy skipper home at last after Bering Sea fire
by Valley View staff
Carnation resident Dave Shoemaker returned home last Friday after being hospitalized for five days for treatment of injuries he suffered in an Oct. 20 fishing boat accident in the Bering Sea.
Following a fiery blast from below decks that eventually consumed the fishing boat Galaxy, Shoemaker, the ship's captain, fought his way through flames to reach the ship's radio to call for help, according to a Coast Guard report.
Some crew members were thrown into the sea and others were trapped in the wheelhouse, reports of the accident said. Shoemaker suffered burns on 10 percent of his arms, hands and abdomen and three rib fractures. After a massive rescue effort, two men were still missing and presumed dead and one crewmember was confirmed dead.
It was reported that the fire was so intense crewmembers had to abandon ship quickly, 15 of them climbing into a life raft. The crew of the Glacier Bay fishing vessel found the life raft and the 15 crewmen. Three others were pulled from the icy waters by other fishing boats.But Shoemaker, 53 and father of four, stayed on the Galaxy to man the radio and to make sure everyone made it off the boat. Following a brief distress call that was heard by a Coast Guard radio station, three other fishing boats that had also heard the call were on their way, along with a Coast Guard rescue helicopter. The helicopter arrived about two hours later to find Shoemaker and four of his crew trapped on the ship's bow.
Shoemaker and the crew had to jump 40 or so feet into the water to reach the helicopter's basket. Coast Guardsman Jason Quinn was already in the freezing water in order to help the skipper and crew into the basket. Another crewman was found floating nearby without a survival suit and he was picked up as well, but pronounced dead at St. Paul Island. The rest of the crew was either taken to hospitals or recovered aboard other fishing vessels.
Shoemaker was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. On Thursday, Shoemaker, listed in satisfactory condition, and another crewmember held a press conference at the hospital. Hands heavily bandaged, Shoemaker brushed aside his sudden hero status to emphasize the great respect he has for his crew.
The Galaxy, a freezer longliner, had been carrying a crew of 25 and an observer from the National Marine Fisheries Service. The cause of the fire has not been determined. Latest reports say the boat has not been found and authorities suspect that it had sunk.