Local News

Ammonia leak victim was longtime fisherman

Charles "Chuck" Baker, left, died Tuesday after an ammonia leak aboard his vessel in Sitka the day before. His wife, Reona, credits their grandson Steven, pictured at right, with helping get others away from the ammonia and preventing further injury. (Photo provided)

82-year-old Charles “Chuck” Baker, left, died Tuesday after an ammonia leak aboard his vessel in Sitka the day before. Baker’s wife, Reona, credits their grandson Steven, pictured at right, with helping get others away from the ammonia and preventing further injury. (Photo provided)

A man injured during an ammonia leak aboard a fishing vessel in Sitka has died.

Charles “Chuck” Baker, of Auburn, Wash., was aboard the Eigil B.

The tender vessel was tied up at Sitka Sound Seafoods at the time of the incident, around 11:15 a.m. Monday.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

Baker was 82 years old when he died on Tuesday. He was a 60-year veteran of the fishing industry in Alaska, and co-owned the Eigil B with his son, Mike.

Reona Baker is his wife.

“We met in 1957 on a blind date,” she said Thursday. And for as long as Reona Baker had known her husband, he was around the sea.

“He started out with boats in Sea Scouts when he was a teenager,” she said. “Then he went into the Navy after high school and then right to work on a cannery tender after he got out of the Navy. I don’t know whether it was a built-in love of boats, but that’s what he loved doing…. That’s really the only comfort we can take in this whole thing, was that he was where he loved to be and doing what he loved to do.”

The 86-foot Eigil B was tied up at Sitka Sound Seafoods on Monday when the leak occurred.

Cheyenne Sanchez, with the spill-response arm of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, says the vessel released upwards of 50 pounds of anhydrous ammonia. The chemical is used in refrigeration systems.

The spill was quickly contained Monday, although workers were evacuated from the area, and a street was closed for about an hour.

No one besides Baker was seriously injured in the accident, although three or four people reported to area hospitals complaining of ammonia-exposure symptoms. Those symptoms include burning of the eyes, nose and throat.

At the time of the accident, Chuck Baker was on board the vessel with his son Mike and his 20-year-old grandson, Steven.

“To us, Steven is a hero,” Reona Baker said. “Our grandson tried very hard to save his grandfather, but he did save his father. If our grandson had not been there with a mask on there might have been more than one tragic ending.”

Comments

Please read our comment guidelines.

Recent News

Transportation planners look to road-and-ferry solution in SE

The M/V Columbia, recently re-powered, is not one of the three ships which could possibly be retired soon. (Flickr/Gillfoto)
State planners still see a road across Baranof Island as an important part of transportation infrastructure -- though it may take decades to become reality. The Department of Transportation held an open house and informational meeting in Sitka this week (8-20-14) on the latest draft of the Southeast Alaska Transportation Plan. And while maintaining and refurbishing the ferry system is high on the list of priorities for the region, major road construction -- both in Juneau and in Sitka -- remains on the books. more

Dry weather to bring relief for HPR drivers?

Contractors roll out the CABC, or "Crushed Asphalt Base Course," in preparation for paving HPR outbound from SeaMart. The DOT says the road will be finished -- or have a temporary surface -- by the end of the paving season mid-September. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)
Sitka drivers frustrated by poor road conditions on Halibut Point Road during this summer’s paving project can take heart: It’s going to get better. Al Clough, the Southeast Regional director for the Department of Transportation says that while heavy rains have been a setback, the road will be done -- or a driveable temporary surface in place -- by the end of the paving season a month from now. more