Fishing crews heed call for help after plane crash

Greg Risling

NEWPORT BEACH -- Don Brockman said he wouldn't do it. Honestly, not many

people would.

But four of Brockman's employees, who had been fishing for squid off the

Santa Barbara coast the past week, suddenly found themselves helping with

the often gruesome cleanup of an Alaska Airlines plane that plummeted

from the sky Monday afternoon.

The four crew members aboard the 42-foot Donz Rig and 32-foot Squid A

Lot, both based in Newport Beach, spent most of Monday evening sifting

through debris and human remains looking for survivors.

They didn't find any.

"I can't stomach to think what my guys went through," said Brockman,

co-owner of Davey's Locker on the Balboa Peninsula. "They seem to be

holding up, but it probably hasn't set in for them."

The Alaska Airlines jetliner was traveling from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico,

en route to San Francisco when disaster struck. The plane's crew radioed

air traffic control officers at Los Angeles International Airport that

there were some "control difficulties." The plane was reportedly losing

altitude quickly and may have ultimately nose-dived into the Pacific

Ocean. There were 88 people aboard. No survivors have been found.

The two fishing vessels had been in squid-rich waters about 20 miles off

the Santa Barbara shore when the crash occurred. They received a call at

about 7 p.m. from the U.S. Coast Guard, asking for assistance and heeded

the call of the sea: when someone is in need, you help.

"It's common courtesy and they all felt they were making the right

choice," said Brockman, who noted that the crew wasn't required to go to

the crash site. "The fishing industry was right there helping out, giving

it their all."

When his crews arrived, the men weren't prepared for the carnage. They

discovered human remains too gory for description. They found luggage

ripped to shreds. Free peanut packages that bobbed like buoys.

Most disturbing for the crew was finding the body of a baby, Brockman

said. The fishermen managed to stomach the gruesome search and recovery

effort, but one newspaper reporter who had tagged along for the ride had

problems handling the scene and vomited repeatedly.

They worked for seven hours, scooping body parts from the ocean and

filling several five-gallon buckets with the remains. Exhausted and weary

from the expedition, they slept most of Tuesday before returning to squid

fishing.

"Those guys were taking it a lot better than I was," Brockman said. "They

didn't know what they were getting into at first. But they did the job

they were asked to do."

There were two plane crashes in less the a day across the world, but it

didn't seem to stop anyone's travel plans. No flights were canceled at

John Wayne Airport on Tuesday and many passengers, although saddened by

the Alaska Airlines crash, still boarded their planes to their final

destinations.

"Sure, you pause for a moment. But then you realize the chances are awful

slim that your plane will crash," said Brad Davis of Huntington Beach,

who was traveling to San Francisco. "It does freak me out a little, but I

have somewhere to go. You can't let something like this get the better of

you."

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