By: LISA R. WILSON

On Oct. 22, a Seattle-based fishing vessel, the Katmai, went down in a storm off Alaska's Aleutian Islands, killing seven crewmen. Since then, several former crew members have testified about problems they observed aboard the ship. A former Katmai engineer, Phillip Stromstad, said he felt the stability plan for the Katmai was in error, which could have caused the vessel to ride poorly in the water. Former crew member Anne-Marie Morris said the boat often rocked heavily at sea. Another former crew member, Alex Vigil, said he had seen minor flooding and a few engineering malfunctions during his time aboard the ship in 2007.

The hearing was part of an ongoing investigation into the sinking of the 93-foot fishing boat. The investigating marine board is composed of both Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board members.

Martin Teachout, a Coast Guard fishing vessel examiner who inspected the boat in 2007, said the Katmai showed no discrepancies. Vessel stability expert Paul Schwitters, who performed a stability review of the Katmai also in 2007, said the vessel met safety requirements at that time.

The marine board will continue to examine its evidence, however, and could reconvene at an unspecified future date, Coast Guard Petty Officer Shawn Eggert said.

Admiralty and maritime law are specific areas of law that regulate accidents and injuries of sea crew and passengers aboard ships. The Jones Act, a maritime law, protects sea crew who work on ships, offshore oil rigs or other sea-going vessels such as barges, riverboats and fishing boats. Under the Jones Act, sea crews are entitled to recover damages if injured on the job. The Jones Act can also cover inland river workers and offshore workers, as well as divers and underwater personnel.

The Jones Act is not workers' compensation law so any injury sustained as a result of employer negligence must be proven in order to receive compensation. For more information on the Jones Act or other admiralty and maritime laws, visit the Admiralty Law Guide at http://www.admiraltylawguide.com, or contact an admiralty and maritime lawyer in your area today.

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