Crewmember S.O.S., Maritime Matter of the Week

Alleged Shooter Responsible For Killing Two Coast Guard Workers Finally Arrested


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In the wake of the Carnival Triumph fire accident, as Coast Guard officials work to find answers for the maritime incident and offer their assistance in the investigation, the organization can now breathe a sigh of relief after a man who killed two Coast Guard communications workers in a shooting crime has been caught.

According to authorities, an Alaskan man was arrested Friday and charged with the shootings and subsequent deaths of two employees at a Coast Guard communications station on Kodiak Island. The shooting suspect, James Michael Wells, 61, of Kodiak, has been charged with the murders of Petty Officer 1st Class James Hopkins and retired Chief Boatswain’s Mate Richard Belisle on April 12, 2012 – federal offenses.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Sara Francis explained Wells was actively employed as a civilian Coast Guard employee at the communications station when the incident took place. His relation to the deceased crewmembers has yet to be revealed, as well as a possible motive for the shooting crime.

Meanwhile, the alleged shooter’s wife, Nancy Wells, claims her husband is innocent.
Details of the arrest and investigation have yet to be revealed, but according to U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler, Wells’ arrest came after “an extensive investigation,” which was led by the FBI and the Coast Guard Investigative Service, with support from the Alaska State Troopers.

The bodies of the deceased victims were found by another Coast Guard member shortly after they arrived for work at the station, which monitors traffic from airplanes and ships. Their bodies were discovered in the station’s rigger building, where antenna repairs are conducted.

Hopkins, 41, was an electronics technician while Belisle, 51, was a former chief petty officer who continued to serve in the Coast Guard as a civilian employee.
Wells is expected to appear in court next week in Anchorage.

This tragic accident has shaken the community and reinforced the fact that safety at work in any maritime organization is crucial. Unfortunately, many crewmembers die in the service of their organization, at sea or in port for various reasons, some of which involve negligence or criminal wrongdoing. The victims’ loved ones have a right to seek legal help to discuss their options in filing a case and we are here to help.

If you or someone you love are employed with a maritime agency, cruise ship, cargo vessel, or as a longshoreman at a pier, and were involved in an accident, turn to our maritime lawyers today to protect your rights and file a claim.

You and your loved ones may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering and our maritime attorneys will work diligently to secure the benefits you deserve, including money damage and medical expenses.

Photo Credits: Memorial for Fallen Soldiers Hopkins & Belisle

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