VIKING raft saves fishing family from rigid Alaskan waters
There's nothing scarier than the thought of a loved one being swept overboard on a sinking vessel. For the Pruitt family from Kodiak, Alaska, this nightmare became reality. If it wasn't for their Viking Liferaft and a father's fast thinking, the Pruitt family wouldn't be alive today. After abandoning their sinking fishing boat and surviving 62 hours in the open ocean, the exhausted and cold family of four was rescued by the crew of Sea Storm, a federal research vessel.
A family commercial fishing operation, Dale Pruitt, 47; his 18-year-old son Mitchell; 15-year-old daughter Calista and 18-year-old niece Callie, embarked on what they thought would be a two-day fishing trip aboard Magnum, a 56' leased seiner. After successfully catching nearly 10,000 lbs. of salmon, the crew turned to head home. Dale called his wife, Mindy, to say they were heading back when suddenly, the weather turned bad, the wind picked up to 50-60 mph and the swells grew to 12-15'.
According to Dale Pruitt, as they tried to reach land, something went very wrong with the boat. It rocked violently from port to starboard. With barely time to issue a mayday call and get the kids into survival suits, Magnum started to rapidly take on water. All of a sudden, Callie was swept overboard. Dale and Mitchell tried in vain to release the metal skiff attached to the deck as Magnum capsized.
In about 47° water, the family swam out to Callie, who had drifted over 100 yards away. She was clinging to the 6-person Viking Liferaft.
Dale made his way barefoot and in just a T-shirt and shorts, having lost his survival suit in all the confusion, toward Callie and the raft. Luckily, he was able to inflate it and get all the kids inside.
The Viking Liferaft battled the storm as Dale battled hypothermia. "We made a hat out of the foam packing we found in the raft's equipment bag in an attempt to contain body heat," said Dale. Calista wrapped her body around her father's chest to warm him. Always hopeful, the crew passed time telling family stories and talking about what they'd do when they got home.
"I was impressed with the riding capabilities and stability of the raft," said Dale. Providing them protection from the elements, "the raft was able to withstand sea conditions that the skiff wouldn't," said Dale.
The Coast Guard never received the distress call from Magnum. Pruitt's family notified the Coast Guard when the crew was 24 hours overdue. The Coast Guard immediately initiated a search pattern and broadcast a message to others to help look for Magnum and its crew. Finally, after 62 hours afloat in their Viking Liferaft, rescue came from Sea Storm, a 105' fishing vessel under contract with NOAA.
"The hardest part was waiting," said Mindy. "My community and the Coast Guard were amazing though. They started looking for my family right away. It was quite an ordeal, but I'm just so thankful for the liferaft and that they were all alright."
Viking built its reputation manufacturing life-saving equipment to the highest possible safety standards. For over 45 years, VIKING Life-Saving Equipment continues to provide high-quality, reliable marine safety products for the offshore, cargo, fire, defense and yachting markets.
Contact VIKING Life-Saving Equipment, 1400 NW 159th St., #101,
Miami, FL 33169. 305-614-5800; Fax: 305-614-5810.