FLORENCE — A well-known Florence couple died when the fishing vessel they were on sank in the Siuslaw River bar early Monday morning.
At approximately 1:50 a.m., Coast Guard watchstanders at Sector North Bend received a distress call from the captain of F/V Aquarius, a commercial crabbing vessel, stating all crew members were abandoning ship, according to a press release from the U.S. Coast Guard 13th District PA Detachment, Astoria. The vessel had struck the south jetty in the Siuslaw River bar and was beginning to take on water.
Shortly thereafter, the 13th District command center received a signal from the vessel's Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). An MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter crew from Air Facility Newport launched and arrived on scene at 2:50 a.m.
Rescue crews from Station Siuslaw River and Station Umpqua River were also underway to assist with the search.
Siuslaw Valley Fire Rescue and Western Lane Ambulance, along with members from Station Siuslaw River searched from shore. One individual was located and rescued near the shoreline. He was able to confirm that two others were onboard the vessel with him when it sank.
The helicopter crew located a second person, who was unresponsive, and hoisted them into the aircraft. They were brought to awaiting EMS at Florence Municipal Airport.
At approximately 7 a.m., the final person was located. With the assistance of the helicopter rescue swimmer, the individual, who was also unresponsive, was brought aboard the Station Siuslaw River boat and then brought to awaiting EMS. Conditions on scene were reported as 6 to 8-foot seas with occasional 10-foot waves, breaking at the bar.
The two who died were reported to be Kyle and Amber Novelli of Florence. In addition to commercial crabbing, their business was Novelli’s Crab and Seafood on the docks in Florence.
“With a heavy heart I am saddened to to inform the many award-winning crab chowder followers of the passing of Kyle and Amber Novelli," Novelli’s Crab and Seafood reported on its Facebook page. "Sharing their love of crabbing was always their dream. Their personalities will forever leave a lasting impression on anyone who met them.
"In the spirit of my mother I will be selling what's left of our cooked crab and then we'll be closing the shop for the foreseeable future," the post said. "Keep our family in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you everyone for all the love you've given my mother for the past few years. EDIT: My mom would kill me if I didnt sell chowder, so I'll have one pot. First come first serve.”
A GoFundMe account (https://gf.me/u/ycxhwv) has been set up to help the family with their unexpected expenses.
The Coast Guard also issued a statement on the incident.
“Station Siuslaw River is humbled by the citizens of Florence Oregon,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Jay Nilles, officer-in-charge of Station Siuslaw River. “Together with our partner agencies we strive to prevent the loss of life for those who go to sea. This community is a family that embraces us, as we embrace everyone who crosses the bar for a living, or to recreate on the ocean. We are reminded during these times, that the ocean is unforgiving, and can be a treacherous place to work and recreate. We will continue to support our community and do all we can to keep those safe who go to sea for their livelihood or pleasure.”
“This highly unfortunate loss of two members of our close community deeply saddens all of us. We continue to stand by you in this time of need and healing. We could not continue to be strong and successful without our partnerships with Siuslaw Valley Fire Rescue and Western Lane Ambulance, who both assisted us in safely recovering one survivor from the tragic incident at sea, and getting him to a higher level of medical care at a rapid pace,” said Nilles.
“Without today's technology of VHF-FM radio communications and an EPIRB, we would not have been able to quickly locate the scene of distress, followed by the location of survivors and victims. This highlights the need for life-saving equipment on our commercial fishing fleet as we continue our mission to make commercial fishing safer for everyone.”
Tim Novotny, communications manager for the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission also offered condolences on behalf of the Commission and others in the crab industry.
“We are heartbroken today," Novotny said. "The Novelli’s have been friends and passionate champions of the Oregon Dungeness crab industry for a long time, both as fishermen and with their shop on the Florence docks. This news hit us like a gut punch. It really did. Sadly, their tragic loss is not the first suffered by our industry. It is another terrible reminder of the unforgiving nature of the ocean, and indicative of the kinds of challenges our courageous fishermen face every day.”