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Search vessel locates wreckage, then sinks

Coast Guard investigators confirmed Wednesday that they have located the wreckage of a fishing boat that sank in the Bering Sea in April with 15 people aboard.

The crew searching for the Arctic Rose got a brief view of the vessel Wednesday before the remotely operated vehicle transmitting pictures got tangled in lines. The cable controlling it snapped, and the $100,000 search vehicle was lost under 450 feet of water, alongside the Arctic Rose.

"It's just incredibly disappointing," said Richard Hansen, owner of Maritime Consultants, the Puyallup, Wash.-based shipwreck hunting company that owned the search vehicle.

"We have very little other than we know it's the Arctic Rose and we saw a few things. We were only able to do a small percentage of what our mission was. Very disappointing," Hansen said.

The Arctic Rose sank in the Bering Sea on April 2, killing all 15 men on board. The only sign of trouble was a signal from the vessel's automatic emergency locator beacon.

The Coast Guard team investigating the sinking had hoped to get a look at the 92-foot commercial fishing and processing vessel to learn why it went down.

The wreckage was found about 200 miles northwest of St. Paul Island, said Capt. Ronald Morris of the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation.

It was discovered using a sonar device towed behind a fishing trawler. The unmanned underwater vehicle's camera clearly showed the Arctic Rose's name on the hull.

The Coast Guard held a short memorial ceremony for the crew Wednesday that included dropping a wreath into the water above the wreckage.

The Arctic Rose had been operated by Arctic Sole Seafoods of Lynnwood, Wash. Only the body of the skipper, David E. Rundall, 34, has been recovered.

The Arctic Rose's sinking was the worst fishing disaster in Alaska waters since 1982, when the Japanese trawler Akebono Maru capsized 50 miles north of Adak, killing 32 people.

Investigators left Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands on Sunday night on a chartered commercial fishing vessel and headed north into the Bering Sea.

The Coast Guard approved spending $200,000 for the search. The 155-foot pollock and cod trawler Ocean Explorer was already rigged for underwater surveys because it had just finished a 30-day research project on the effects of trawling on the Bering Sea floor.

The same sonar crew remains on board, saving time and money, said Morris, who extended the vessel's $6,300 daily contract with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration that included everything but fuel.