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