Lynnwood fisherman who died at sea was known as Mr. Safety

LYNNWOOD — He was known as Mr. Safety.

The 65-year-old Lynnwood grandfather and captain of a factory fishing trawler had decades of experience at sea and a reputation for running a tight ship.

Eric Peter “Pete” Jacobsen and three other men died early Sunday in the Bering Sea after their fishing vessel, the Alaska Ranger, lost steering and began to take on water, officials said.

U.S. Coast Guard crews and another factory ship saved 42 crew members. One crewman remained missing Monday.

While Coast Guard helicopters, planes and cutters searched among 8-foot swells for the missing fisherman Monday, a Lynnwood family searched for solace.

Beyond a small yard where bundled rose bushes waited to be planted, the focus was on the husband, father, brother and grandpa who won’t be coming home, said Sandy Phillips, who has lived across the street from the Jacobsens for decades.

“Everyone in the fishing community can’t believe that it could happen to a man like Pete, Capt. Jacobsen,” she said. “Safety is his utmost concern.”

Jacobsen sailed for The Fishing Company of Alaska Inc. for more than 20 years, she said. The Seattle-based company hired the Lynnwood man to be its second captain.

In addition to Jacobsen, the dead were identified as Daniel Cook, David Silveira and Byron Carrillo, the company said.

“There were incredibly brave, hardworking men,” the company said in a statement. “Our hearts are broken.”

Even on the quiet Lynnwood street where Jacobsen lived, he was known for erring on the side of caution, Phillips said.

Jacobsen’s wife, Patricia, asked Phillips to deliver a message about her husband: “He was always Mr. Safety. He was always conscientious. That’s the kind of guy he was. He drove the men nuts about safety.”

Trouble aboard the 184-foot Alaska Ranger began early Sunday. A mayday signal was issued and soon Coast Guard crews were mustered to launch a rescue. A nearby fishing vessel was diverted to the sinking ship’s location, about 120 miles west of Dutch Harbor along Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

Coast Guard crews plucked 20 crew members out of the frigid waters. The fishing boat Alaska Warrior, the Alaska Ranger’s sister ship, rescued 20 more people.

“When we got to the scene there was a spread, at least a mile long, of 13 survivors in Gumby (survival) suits with strobe lights,” said O’Brien Hollow, a Coast Guard aviation survival technician. “I went down without disconnecting from the helicopter and picked them up one at a time.”

The survival suits, similar to dry suits with hoods, are a last-ditch measure fishermen employ to survive exposure to the frigid waters of the Bering Sea, said Jim Leese Jr., an Everett fisherman. On Monday, he was cleaning out a net locker on Everett’s waterfront. Later this spring, Leese plans to sail to southeast Alaska for salmon fishing aboard the 57-foot purse seiner Polarland.

“You know it’s a life-and-death situation. You don’t last long in the Bering Sea,” Leese said.

A small fleet of boats sail to Alaska each summer from Everett, but none of the vessels is as large as the Alaska Ranger, said Jeff Lozeau, a harbor attendant for the Port of Everett.

Fishermen on boats of all sizes put in long hours of hard work, often in grueling environments, he said.

“It’s probably one of the most dangerous jobs out there,” Lozeau said. “Usually if there’s an accident on one of those boats, it’s pretty serious.”

Commercial fishing is the deadliest job in America, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than 140 fishermen die for every 100,000 working. Nearly 50 people died in commercial fishing mishaps in 2006, according to the bureau’s Web site.

Jacobsen, who moved west from the Boston area decades ago, leaves behind a wife; children in the Lynnwood area and on the East Coast; his brother, Billy; and several grandchildren, Phillips said.

Coast Guard officials said Monday they are investigating what caused the Alaska Ranger to sink.

No memorial plans had been announced Monday afternoon.

On the Everett waterfront Monday, news of the deaths at sea weighed heavily on the minds of working fishermen.

“You feel for the family,” Leese said. “It’s a tough business and it can be dangerous. Thank goodness they got 42 off the boat. You always hope they could get everybody.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or

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