(2011 Photo by Ed Ronco/KCAW)

A catastrophic steering system failure caused a fatal boating accident in Sitka earlier this month. That’s according to an update from the Alaska Wildlife Troopers

The mechanical failure threw the skiff’s occupants Theodosius “Dosy” Merculief and James “Jimmi” Jensen into the water near the Starrigavan Boat ramp while they were harvesting herring eggs on Friday, April 9. Troopers found a broken steering cable during an investigation of the 17-foot skiff.

Both Jensen and Merculief were rescued by Good Samaritans and transferred to the Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center, where Merculief was pronounced dead. A preliminary investigation by the medical examiner points to hypothermia and drowning as the cause of death. Merculief was wearing a personal floatation device. 

A crowdfunding campaign for his family has raised over $33,000 since it was started on April 10.