Coast Guard investigating death of seaman

Coast Guard investigating death of seaman

Michele Ellson

Petty Officer Third Class Travis Obendorf. Photo courtesy Coast Guard Cutter Waesche.

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the death of an Alameda-based seaman following a search and rescue mission in the Bering Sea, where the cutter he serves on was on a patrol assignment.

Petty Officer Third Class Travis Obendorf died Wednesday in a Seattle hospital as the result of a head injury he sustained while helping to rescue five people from a fishing vessel near Amak Island, Alaska, a Coast Guard press release said. Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy said completing an investigation of how he sustained that injury could take up to a year.

“Petty Officer Obendorf’s selfless actions directly contributed to rescuing five mariners in distress. His willingness to assist others, even amidst the dangerous environment of the Bering Sea, truly embodies the Coast Guard’s core values,” Captain John McKinley, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Waesche, the ship Obendorf served on, was quoted as saying in a Coast Guard press release. “Travis will be sadly missed.”

Conroy couldn't say how long Obendorf had been stationed in Alameda.

On November 11, Obendorf and others from the Waesche were on one of the cutter's small boats responding to a disabled fishing vessel, the Alaska Mist, that had 22 mariners aboard. He was injured during the first transfer of passengers from the disabled vessel, the release said.

Weather conditions during the initial stages of the rescue included rain, winds of 35 miles per hour and five- to 10-foot waves. As the Waesche began transferring the disabled vessel's personnel and setting up a tow, winds increased to between 40 and 46 miles per hour and waves rose to 10 feet, a release detailing the rescue effort said.

After he was injured, a Coast Guard helicopter transported Obendorf to Cold Bay, where a commercial medevac picked him up and carried him to Anchorage, the release said. On December 6, he was transferred to Swedish Hospital in Seattle for additional care.

The 166-foot fishing vessel and its crew were safely transported to Dutch Harbor, an earlier release detailing the rescue said.