Dec. 28 (UPI) — A Russian fishing boat with 19 aboard sank in the northern Barents Sea Monday, leaving 17 presumed dead in freezing cold water after two were rescued.
“At 7:30, information was received that the Onega vessel … had sunk in the Barents Sea near Novaya Zemlya in the Arkhangelsk Region,” the Russian emergency ministry said in a TASS report.
The Voikovo fishing trawler rescued two of 19 on board the fishing boat Onega, based in Murmansk, according to the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry Main Directorate for the Murmansk Region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a message of condolences to Murmansk Region Governor Andrei Chibis, the Kremlin website reported.
“It was with great sadness that I learned about the tragedy in the Barents Sea that claimed the lives of the crew members of the Onega fishing boat,” the message read. “Please convey my deepest condolences to the families of the victims and words of support to the injured.”
The privately owned boat used a net called a trawl pulled through the water behind the boat to catch fish. A source told Interfax, “the disaster happened in a strong storm, when the crew lifted the net with the catch,” the captain was not among the two rescued, and all the crew were wearing wetsuits.
Emergency ministry officials believe ice piled on the ship caused it to sink, Voice of America reported, adding that a criminal investigation is underway.
The Murmansk Rescue Coordination Center is heading the rescue operation with assistance from aviation of the Northern Fleet, but the rescue is complicated by short daylight hours and adverse weather with rough to very rough waves and air temperature of -20 degrees, the ministry said.
One ship is currently at the crash site and three are moving in search and assistance, it added.
The Onega, which files the Russian flag, was constructed in 1979.