Fishing community grieves death of 3 off Newport coast: 'It affects everyone'

Image of Josh Porter and his wife, Stephen Bierbacki and James Lacey, and James Lacey and his wife - Images from family members.

NEWPORT, Ore. – The fishing community in Newport is mourning the loss of three fishermen whose crabbing boat overturned Tuesday night while they were crossing the Yaquina Bay bar.

Dozens gathered Wednesday night for a public memorial to honor the three men, identified as 48-year-old James Lacey, 50-year-old Joshua Porter, and 50-year-old Stephen Biernacki.

Fishing is a huge part of the town. Newport holds the state's largest commercial fishery, and if you aren’t a fisherman, you’re related to one or interact with them on a daily basis.

The memorial was held at the Yaquina Bay State Recreation area, not far from where the fishermen's boat washed ashore.

At the location – a tribute that lists the names of fishermen who were lost at sea off the Oregon Coast over roughly the last century.

Sadly, three more names will be added soon. Tia Brown placed three candles on the memorial in their honor.

“We wanted to be a sanctuary, a place for people can come and remember and grieve,” said Tia Brown, who has family in the fishing industry. “I wasn't close with any of them, but I feel like I have lost a member of my family."

Gary Ripka, captain of Western Seabreeze, has been fishing the Oregon coast for 39 years. He fished with and was close friends with Porter.

“When you spend so much time with someone like that it hits pretty hard,” he said. “It affects everyone in a different way, and affects all of us in the hard way."

The Oregon coast is considered one of the most dangerous places to fish.

Big waves, large tidal swings and nasty weather. The river bars always being the biggest hurdle.

“I have seen some very seasoned guys lose their lives. A very good friend of mine had 40 years’ experience, lost his life on the bar. It doesn't get easier when you get older doing it. It's just as dangerous and it's just as risky and it doesn't change," Ripka said.

A local nonprofit, representing the fishing community here is accepting donations on behalf of the family.

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