A distress beacon led U.S. Coast Guard crews to a debris field and an oil sheen several miles off the Washington coast.
In the debris field was a damaged, empty lifeboat, the Coast Guard said.
The distress signal came early Saturday from the 70-foot fishing vessel Lady Cecelia, which has a home port in Warrenton, Ore. and is registered to Dale Kent of Bay City, Ore. He could not be reached Saturday by The Associated Press, but the ship's owner told the Guard that four people had been aboard.
"The life raft was in no condition to be used," said Coast Guard Petty Officer Shawn Eggert. "There was a lot of debris, a sheen and the (beacon)."
The Coast Guard dispatched two helicopters, two life boats and a C-130 search aircraft. The Guard said it had searched 640 square miles by late Saturday afternoon.
The 225-foot Coast Guard cutter Fir was dispatched on Friday, and the Guard said it would search throughout the night.
The Lady Cecelia was first registered in Oregon in 1991. Eggert said he didn't have details on the debris, or whether the vessel was still intact. He said the Guard does not yet know a cause for the damage.
Overnight weather off the southern Washington coast was comprised of a slowly-moving front that created moderate waves but not stormy conditions on Friday night or Saturday morning. The early-morning weather was followed later in the day by gale-force winds.
A buoy located 20 nautical miles off the Washington coast recorded water temperatures of 43 degrees at 4 a.m. on Saturday.
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