Dustin Gates, 09/11/04

Boy dies after boat capsizes near Homer
SURVIVORS: 3 adults rescued by other boaters after two hours in water.

Anchorage Daily News

(Published: September 12, 2004)

An Anchorage boy died Saturday when the boat in which he was fishing with three adults took on water and capsized in Kachemak Bay.

Dustin Gates, 10, died from prolonged exposure to the cold water, said Bryan Barlow, an officer with the Alaska State Troopers. Dustin and the three adults clung to floating debris for up to two hours before passing boaters spotted them and pulled them out. It was unclear late Saturday whether the boy was still alive at that point.

The three other passengers, all Anchorage residents, were Jeffrey Fisher, 41; Shirley Robison, 53; and Jerry Gates, 34, who is Dustin's father and the boat's owner, Barlow said. The adults were treated at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer and released, Barlow said.

The foursome spent Saturday halibut fishing out of Gates' 16-foot fiberglass boat, and were anchored just before the capsizing in Kachemak Bay about a mile past the opening to the harbor at the end of the Homer Spit.

The group prepared to return to the harbor sometime around 3 p.m., Barlow said. But something went wrong when they tried to pull up the anchor.

"When they backed the boat up, some water began coming up over the stern," Barlow said. "Based on the statements from the people on the boat, some fairly large swells came up over the back of the boat and filled it to a point where the stern went under the water.

"Basically within seconds the boat was on end and everyone was in the water."

There were life preservers on board, but no one was wearing one, Barlow said.

"They were treading water, holding on to coolers and other debris that had been in the boat," Barlow said. "At one point, I think one of the friends in the boat was with the boy and made it to a large metal buoy floating out there, and they were at that for some time."

After other boaters picked up the four, they were taken to the fuel dock at the harbor and troopers were called. It was just before 5 p.m., Barlow said.

He didn't know the water temperature, but said it was certainly cold, and it was a cloudy day. The survivors told him the water grew choppy with some good-sized swells, Barlow said.

No autopsy is planned for the boy.

Daily News reporter Katie Pesznecker can be reached at kpesznecker@adn.com.

Drown victim's family seeks donations, info

Family and friends of Dustin Leon Gates have set up a memorial fund to defray funeral expenses. Dustin, 10, drowned during a boating accident off the Homer Spit on Sept. 11. Donations may be made at any Alaska USA Federal Credit Union branch. Anyone with information about the accident that happened between the hours of 2 and 9 p.m. Sept. 11 is asked to call Jerry Gates, 1-907-349-1659, or e-mail alaskantroll@ netscape.net.