In 1992, Fitterer says sunken South Jetty is ‘a death trap’

75 years ago

March 11, 1942

After taking a back seat to soupfin fishermen for more than a year, Grays Harbor salmon trollers came into their own this week with Westport buyers reporting catches up to 1,000 pounds for a single day’s fishing.

Four tons of salmon were delivered yesterday to the Ed Kaakinen Fish company at Westport. Fishermen are receiving from 20 to 22 cents a pound for their catches.

Several Westport soupfin boats, now rigged with gillnets, went out yesterday.

March 12, 1942

Workmen today began lofting the first ship to be built in the Grays Harbor Shipbuilding company’s new Aberdeen yard, company officials announced.

From government blueprints of the boat, patterns of the boat’s members were being laid out in the lofting room in “life size.” From these patterns, the parts are cut in the yard’s fabricating shop and then put in place on the construction ways.

With actual work on the first ship thus begun, officials announced that the “no admission” sign has been hung on the yard entrance, and that the general public will be excluded from all parts of the site. To enforce this rule guards will be posted along a fence built around the plant.

50 years ago

March 11, 1967

The Aberdeen Bobcats, cheered on by more than 1,000 roaring Harborites, celebrated a smashing return to the state AA tourney in Tacoma last night after an 11-year absence by ripping undermanned North Kitsap, 73-55 in the Region III opener before 5,500 onlookers in the UPS Fieldhouse.

Six-foot-six center Gary Hopkins and 6-2 Walt Failor shared game honors with 20 points each and gaffed 18 and 12 rebounds, respectively, as the purple-clad Vikings had no answer to Aberdeen’ rangy front line.

Guards Bob Fisher and Ed Johnson, given more of a tussle by the hustling Vikings’ back court pair, found their stride after several early turnovers to chip in 12 and 11, respectively.

March 12, 1967

Sunday, no newspaper published

25 years ago

March 11, 1992

• An explosion on a research vessel working with demolition materials off Willapa Bay resulted in at least two deaths this morning, officials said.

The 265-foot research vessel was working 13 miles due west of Leadbetter Point, according to Grays Harbor County Coroner John Bebich. “Apparently they were engaged in sound setting and there was an explosion on the deck,” Bebich said.

Details were sketchy, but the Coast Guard dispatched two helicopters from Astoria, a vessel from Cape Disappointment at Ilwaco and a vessel from Westport to the accident scene.

• Otto Fitterer has been fishing out of Westport for 47 years. He says there’s just one way to describe the sunken South Jetty: “They should call it a death trap. There have been so many boats lost on there, you don’t even know,” says the salty 73-year-old. “It’s a death trap, pure and simple.”

Nobody — not even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which built the jetty at the turn of the century — disputes that traversing the Grays Harbor bar in that area is treacherous.

The problem, according to the Corps, is the $100 million to $150 million it would take to fully repair the sunken jetty.

March 12, 1992

Navy and Coast Guard officials are investigating the explosion that killed two men aboard a 265-foot research ship off Willapa Bay Wednesday morning.

The Amy Chouest reportedly was conducting classified research for the Navy 13 miles west of Leadbetter Point when the accident occurred.

According to the Coast Guard, the two men were planting explosives in the sea as part of a seismic testing project when some of the ordinance similar to a small depth charge exploded on the rear deck. One of the men is believed to have dropped a charge equal to 1.8 pounds of TNT.

Both men — a 44-year-old instrumentation specialist and a 39-year-old marine technician — were “highly qualified and well trained in explosives and safety procedures,” according to their employer, Marine Specialties Inc. of East Camden, Ark.

Compiled from the archives of The Daily World by Karen Barkstrom