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Fatal crash of four fishing crew members in Wrangell hits fishing community hard

Recent photo of Julie and Gig Decker with their two children Sig and Helen, who died in a car crash on Mitkoff Island on Monday. Photo courtesy of United Fishermen of Alaska and KSTK Radio.
Recent photo of Julie and Gig Decker with their two children Sig and Helen, who died in a car crash on Mitkoff Island on Monday. Photo courtesy of United Fishermen of Alaska and KSTK Radio.

There’s been an outpouring of support from across the state for the families of four fishing crew members, killed in a fatal car crash south of Petersburg.

The United Fishermen of Alaska set up an online fundraiser — and as of midday Wednesday, 500 donors had contributed about $70,000 to help the family of 21-year-old Siguard Decker and his 19-year-old sister, Helen.

Louise Stutes, a Kodiak legislator, says she’s not surprised.

“The fishing community is a small community. It may cover a large area, but it’s a small community,” Stutes said.

Rep. Stutes chairs legislature’s fisheries committee, a role that brought her in close contact with Julie Decker, who lost her son and daughter in the crash. Decker, who is from Wrangell, is a well-known fisheries and seafood advocate. She hosts the annual Symphony of Seafoods contest to promote Alaska fisheries and was instrumental in launching the kelp mariculture program in Kodiak and elsewhere in Alaska.

Stutes says many Alaskans have a personal connection with the family, which makes the loss of the four crew members even harder. Also, she says, the tragedy hits too close to home for many fishing families, who worry about the safety of their loved ones, when their work takes them far from home.

“You don’t come to terms with it. You may or may not come back,” Stutes said.

Ian Martin, a 29-year-old from Petersburg, was also killed, along with Dennis Lord of Elmira, New York. He was 37.

The Deckers, Martin and Lord worked on two fishing vessels – the Magnus Martens and Vigilant. They were only in Petersburg for repairs.

Bob Thorstenson, who manages the two fishing boats, said he had never seen a brother and sister team like the Deckers.

“They were like the Michael Jordan and Vanessa Williams together,” Thorstenson told KFSK News. “That’s how rock star they were.”

State Troopers were still investigating the crash Wednesday. They said all were wearing seatbelts and airbags went off, but alcohol may have played a role in the crash.

Stories about the fishing crew were carried in national fishing publications like Seafood News and National Fishermen.

United Fishermen of Alaska gave an address for Julie and Gig Decker, for those who wish to send their condolences. P.O. Box 2138. Wrangell, Alaska 99929.

Editor’s note: This story is a compilation of stories written by KMXT and KSTK Radio in Wrangell. https://www.kstk.org/2020/07/29/wrangell-siblings-among-four-killed-in-mitkof-island-car-wreck/