[B]Captain dies when ship goes down in South Pacific[/B]
Capt. Hill with his 2-year-old daughter Quinn.
By Franki Black
June 22, 2010
<!–/#byline–> <!-- google_ad_section_start -->At midnight on June 16, Capt. David K. Hill was declared missing at sea and presumed dead after the commercial fishing vessel he was in command of sank in the South Pacific ocean. He was 54 years old.
Capt. Hill had been in the yachting industry for more than 15 years, in command of several large yachts, including the 150-foot Trinity M/Y [I]Utopia 3[/I], the 102-foot Broward M/Y [I]C’est La Vie[/I], and the 78-foot Burger M/Y [I]Neon Rainbow[/I]. During the economic recession last year, he turned to the commercial industry to keep working.
His wife, Amy Hill, described her husband as an avid sailor who covered many regions ranging from the South Pacific to Alaska to the Mediterranean. She also mentioned how proud he was of his son, Spencer, who is about to go on a NOAA vessel as an engineering intern.
“David was the kind of man who would go out of his way to help others,” said Capt. Mark Balentine, a close friend of Capt. Hill. “I will always remember the image of Dave, a big man who looked like Sean Connery, walking hand-in-hand with his 2-year-old daughter. When Dave was not at sea, he spent all his time with his daughter and wife.”
Another close family friend, Capt. Kelly Esser of Cape Ann Towing in Ft. Lauderdale, described Hill as a kind-hearted and humble man who never met a stranger.
“David was the kind of person who would help you at the drop of a hat,” Esser said. “We often met at the [Lauderdale Isles Yacht and Tennis Club] and David was known for having many friends and for being a very social person.”
As a captain, Esser described him as cool, calm and collected.
“David has been in the maritime industry his whole life and the ocean was his passion.
Balentine said that Capt. Hill spoke to his wife and daughter the day before the incident and everything seemed well under way. They had no idea what the next day will bring.
Two weeks before the fateful day that ended in tragedy, Capt. Hill and his crew of 23 set sail from the Fiji Islands into the South Pacific on a commercial fishing vessel called [I]Majestic Blue[/I]. Esser said that the vessel had undergone inspection in Guam and Capt. Hill was ready to begin a three-month stint catching tuna under a StarKist Tuna contract.
According to crew reports, the engine room started taking on water early on the morning of June 14. It was still dark outside. Capt. Hill, the only American aboard, gave orders to his crew to abandon ship and ready themselves on the shipboard life raft.
In the mean time, Capt. Hill was in the wheelhouse sending out emergency signals and Mayday calls, ensuring the safety of his crew.
Crew have told investigators that once they were all on the lifeboat, the chief engineer stepped back onto the sinking vessel and headed to the wheelhouse to inform Capt. Hill the crew were ready. That was the last they saw of the chief engineer and Capt. Hill. According to a report by Capt. Jurgen of Majestic Blue Fisheries, the vessel rolled over onto its starboard side and sank.
The U.S. Coast Guard reported that Capt. Hill’s emergency signals reached F/V [I]Pacific Breeze[/I], sister ship of F/V [I]Majestic Blue[/I], which was about 70 nautical miles away at the time. Within hours, she came to the rescue of the remaining 22 crew members.
Capt. Ed Ratigan of F/V [I]Pacific Breeze[/I] took regional charge of the situation, coordinating the efforts of three additional fishing vessels and a helicopter that came to assist. The USCG sent a C-130 from Air Station Barber’s Point in Hawaii to the scene of the accident.
Four fishing vessels, the USCG and the Fijian navy searched for two days for the missing men. On June 16, two days after the incident, the search was officially called off. It is presumed that Capt. Hill and the chief engineer, a Korean man named Yang Changcheol, went down with the ship. The ship’s EPIRB was found floating among the debris.
“It was one of the most intensive searches I’ve experienced and nothing was found,” Jurgen said.
The crew reported excellent weather conditions on the day of the incident and, at this stage, the cause of the accident is reported as unknown.
Capt. Hill is survived by his partner and wife of 17 years and their 2-year-old daughter, Quinn Bronwyn. Capt. Hill also has a son, Spencer Hill, and daughter Thea Hill from a previous marriage.
A memorial service – which will really be more of a celebration of his life, Esser said – will take place July 8 at 7 p.m. at the Lauderdale Isles Yacht and Tennis Club in Ft. Lauderdale. Capt. Hill’s family and friends are setting up a college fund for Quinn. Details will appear with this story as they come available.