Chandler man missing at sea; Coast Guard calls off search for 6 fishermen on crab boat

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A Valley man is believed to be one of six people on board a missing fishing boat in the Bering Sea off of Alaska. 

Kai Hamik, of Chandler, is a commercial fisherman who neighbors say loves his job. 

"I see him off and on, depending on the season," said Gabriel D'Zordo, who lives right next door to Hamik. "Sometimes he tells me the season is bad so he comes back early. He loves it. He loves it. He always tells me he loves it."

The U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska said the crew sent out a beacon alert 2 miles northwest of St. George, Alaska, on Saturday morning.

The boat, a 98-foot crab boat named "Destination," had six people on it and is owned by a company based in Seattle, Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson said. The vessel's electronic locating device was recovered Saturday morning.

"It was in a debris field that had a couple of buoys and a life ring from the fishing vessel the Destination and there's also an oil sheet on the water," Steenson said. 

The Coast Guard said the debris found is consistent with a sunken fishing vessel.

A statement released by the Coast Guard Monday night said the search has been suspended.

[RELATED: Coast Guard calls off search for 6 fishermen on crab boat]

"We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the six crewmembers during this extremely difficult time," said Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, commander of the Coast Guard 17th District. "The decision to suspend a search is always difficult and is made with great care and consideration."

Steenson said the Coast Guard doesn't yet know the cause of the boat's disappearance or whether anyone survived.

Hamik boasts of being a commercial fisherman on his Facebook page and has shot, edited and posted videos on youtube.com from his adventures. 

D'Zordo had no idea Hamik might be lost at sea. He said he will stay hopeful. 

"My goodness, my prayers. Every time he goes out I always say a pray because I know what he does," D'Zordo said.

An agency news release on Sunday afternoon said ships and aircraft had looked through the night for the Destination. Two more helicopters joined the search at first light on Monday.

On Monday morning, the Coast Guard said conditions in the Bering Sea were 5- to 8-foot-high seas, snowing, with winds at 30 mph, and a water temperature below freezing at 30 degrees. The average person could survive about 15 hours in a survival suit.

A Coast Guard officer on a high-endurance cutter said Bering Sea fishing vessels at this time of year face hazards from large waves to icing that can upset a boat's balance.

Lt. Brenden Kelley is operations officer and navigator on the 378-foot cutter Monroe. A sister vessel, the cutter Morgenthau, is searching for the Destination.

Kelley said by phone from Kodiak that weather is the biggest hazard at this time of year.

He said mariners pay close attention to wind and waves and can use sophisticated tools to determine how much ice may be accumulating on their boats. Ice can make the vessels top-heavy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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