December 6, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 49

Deckhand says he was half-drunk

Deckhand Terence Moniz told state troopers he and Darlin Michele skipper Ted Lynch had been drinking “quite a few” beers and Moniz was half-drunk when Lynch fell off the fishing boat and drowned Oct. 23 near Skagway.

Troopers recently released their report of the accident, including the transcript of their interview with Moniz, Lynch’s brother-in-law.

An alcohol “swab” test conducted more than two hours after the accident confirmed Moniz had been drinking. Moniz told troopers he didn’t want to submit to an alcohol breath test.

In an interview Wednesday, state trooper Ken VanSpronsen said troopers would make no determination of whether alcohol contributed to the accident because such statements are based on blood-alcohol levels, and Lynch was not found.

“We can’t test Mr. Lynch, so we can’t say one way or another” whether he was impaired, VanSpronsen said.

Holly Irwin, Lynch’s former wife and longtime fishing partner, this week said she doubted Lynch was impaired.

“I’m sure Ted was not in that capacity at all, if he was drinking. He was very safety-conscious. He would make sure all the fire alarms were in the house and functioning. He was that way on the boat, too. He was always very cautious,” she said.

After the drowning death of Haines fishing boat captain Richard Boyce in July, safety was foremost on Lynch’s mind, Irwin said.

Moniz told troopers Lynch had been smoking marijuana that morning as well, but VanSpronsen said no marijuana was found during a search of the vessel.

VanSpronsen said Moniz was visibly intoxicated when he was interviewed.

According to Moniz, the pair started fishing at 9 a.m. “We had quite a few to drink, actually. I am a five on a scale of one to 10. Beer, no hard stuff,” Moniz said.

Moniz, who was at the stern of the vessel, said Lynch was at mid-deck and fell in after reaching over to grab a shrimp pot.

“I threw him a ring and he put it around him, and when I tried to pull him out, he couldn’t hold on to the ring. It slipped off of him. I came back around again and I grabbed hold of his life vest with a gaff hook and I almost had him in again. I pulled him up with the block here but the line broke… I came around again and tried to lasso him with a rope and it slipped over him and his whole vest and stuff came off and I couldn’t find him again,” Moniz told troopers.

VanSpronsen said between 40 minutes and an hour elapsed between the time Lynch fell overboard and when Moniz radioed for help. Between attempts to hoist Lynch aboard, Moniz apparently repositioned the boat, VanSpronsen said, a factor that may have added to Lynch’s time in the water and reduced his chance of survival.

“I called and I had calls coming in on the radio and I had calls coming in on the phone and I was just freaking out,” Moniz told troopers. “I don’t know how to run his boat. I can’t figure out how to run his machines. He had passwords on this and that. I was just about ready to pass out trying to pull him up.”

VanSpronsen said it’s still not clear how many times Moniz used a winch to try to bring Lynch aboard. Moniz told troopers he had Lynch “on the block three times and he fell off the block all three times.” However, Coast Guard Lt. Patrick Drayer, who also interviewed Moniz, said it appeared a power block may have only been used once as a hoist.

Drayer said it was also uncertain whether Lynch communicated with Moniz after falling overboard.

Drayer, who interviewed Moniz three days after the accident, said he was hoping to conduct a second interview before writing their final report. The trooper interview came about an hour after Moniz radioed for help.

VanSpronsen said drinking while operating a commercial or recreational boat is illegal and unwise.

“Nothing good comes from something like this, but somebody may be able to learn from someone else’s mistakes,” he said.