A Toledo woman who says she was aboard a tuna boat piloted by Captain Stephen Biernacki last August has come forward to recount the man hitting her in the face with a microphone and trying to confine her to the boat's bunk area after the two fought over a radio call she made to try to get another boat to take her back to shore.
"He grabbed the mike and hit me in the chin with it and said, 'you just lost your privileges,'" said Kelli Sullivan, who called the News-Times Thursday morning and tearfully recalled the ordeal aboard the Fishing Vessel Ranger. She had not spoken to Coast Guard investigators who this week are delving into Biernacki's past and the sinking of his crab boat the Mary B II in January.
"He just started getting meaner and meaner," Sullivan said. "I saw him drink a half a gallon of vodka over two days. We argued through the night. I kept asking him to take me in, take me in, and he wouldn't."
Sullivan said Biernacki put his hand on her head and shoved her down into the bunk area. She grabbed her sleeping bag and escaped past him to the deck. She was finally able to convince him to take her in, Sullivan said.
Biernacki received a text from the boat's owner that the Coast Guard had been notified of a distress call involving the Ranger. Biernacki then stalled at sea, drinking water to sober up, she said.
"We were supposed to get in at 6 p.m.," she said. "We didn't get in until midnight. I thought the Coast Guard was supposed to be there waiting for us, and they weren't. We made it to the docks, no Coast Guard."
Sullivan said she went to a friend's boat, who called the Coast Guard and told them 'I got the gal you've been looking for for the past few days.' Sullivan stayed with the boat while it went to look for lost traps on the ocean, then made a report to city police when she returned to harbor. The officer said the report would be passed on to the Coast Guard, but she heard nothing further from authorities about the incident, Sullivan said.
“I just kept it inside,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve talked about it.”
In a follow-up phone interview on Friday, Chief Warrant Officer Tom Molloy of Station Yaquina Bay told the newspaper the Coast Guard didn't have enough information to act upon.