The date, August 13, 2002, stands out in the memory of many Coast Survey employees, but most poignantly for the crew of NOAA Ship Rainier. It was this day in Prince William Sound, Alaska, when NOAA Ship Rainier’s survey launch capsized after being struck by high waves, killing Eric Koss, one of their beloved crewman and coxswain. The small launch was conducting nearshore surveys off Point Elrington in Prince William Sound. The seas were rough, but typical for the area. When the launch capsized, two of the crew members, David Fischman and NOAA Corps Ensign Jennifer Johnson, swam to safety, but Eric perished in the accident.
The echos of this accident still reverberate through the NOAA community, and particularly the hydrographic ships that work in Alaska. Nearshore operations are planned and executed with this event in mind. Limits for inshore work are now set a project level and laser scanners are being employed specifically to move crew members out of the dangerous nearshore environment.
Memorials to Eric can be found on NOAA Ship Rainier, the Pacific Hydrographic Branch in Seattle, and at Coast Survey headquarters in Silver Spring, MD. But perhaps the most important memorial can be found on chart 16702, where Koss Cove is located just west of Point Elrington.