EXCLUSIVE: We Called It the 'Ranger Danger'

Survivor of Alaskan sea disaster says crew thought ship was unsafe.

ByABC News
March 27, 2008, 9:37 AM

March 27, 2008— -- The crew of the fishing boat that sank three days ago off the coast of Alaska believed the vessel was unsafe, and that their employer delayed making needed repairs, a survivor told ABC News.

The Alaska Ranger was in such disrepair its crew members had nicknamed it "the Ranger Danger," 22-year-old Jeremy Freitag said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon -- a claim backed up by two other crew members who had previously served on the ship.

There were a lot of problems onboard the ship that were constantly ignored by its owner, Fishing Company of Alaska, Inc., Freitag said. "They just wanted to fish," said the Lebanon, Ore. native. "They didn't care about the repairs...There was always an excuse."

The company has put up Freitag and the rest of the ship's survivors in the Grand Aleutian Hotel in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The company has reportedly instructed the survivors not to talk to the media; Freitag confirmed that saying, "They really don't want us talking, that it would be easier on them if we didn't talk."

Crew members have said the ship was a converted flat bottom boat originally used to service oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Freitag, who said he worked as a steward on the ship for the past year, said the Ranger's engineer called it a "mudboat" that was converted to be a fish processor.

The boat "rode rough," said Freitag. "If you went from that boat to another one, you could tell the difference...it bounced around a lot."

It needed "pretty much everything you could think of," Freitag said, and reeled off a list of places in the boat into which water would leak: the galley, the bathrooms, the laundry room and even the crew's quarters. Pumps to empty the water from the ship did not function, he said.

According to accounts, the ship began taking in water after losing control of its rudder. The ship reportedly sank in fifteen minutes. It took rescuers two and a half hours to reach the site of the disaster.

Freitag had been working in the fishing industry for two years when he joined the crew of the 184-foot Ranger last June. But nothing had prepared him for the Ranger's sudden demise in rough seas three days ago.