Four bodies found, search underway for the other six on board a capsized patrol boat in poor weather.
'The only clear bit of information is that it was dark when they set off to inspect the boat'. Picture: FSB Sakhalin coastguards press-service
The crew were all from the Russian Federal Security Service's (FSB's) border directorate for Sakhalin Region, and they were lost performing their duties. A criminal case has been opened into the incident amid concerns over safety breaches. 'At the current time, the bodies of four employees have been found and identified,' said the FSB's public relations centre.
The border guards were in a rubber boat inspecting a Sierra Leone-registered boat called 'Astor' which was suspected of illegal fishing off Yuzhno-Kurilsk.
The incident occurred on the evening of 24 January in difficult weather conditions, accompanied by snow flurries and sharp gusts of wind.
'It happened about 8 pm on 24 January. A rubber boat with ten officers of Sakhalin border guards department of the coast guard went to inspect a boat.
'Because of the stormy seas, the boat capsized, and the people could not get to safety. As of now there is no information if they had life jackets on,' said a source from Yuzhno-Kurilsk.
There was no storm in the bay when the border guards left to inspect fishing boat, said reports. The criminal case is under clause dealing with 'violation of health and safety rules when exploiting marine transport leading to the death of two and more people'. A search for the six men who are missing presumed dead is being carried out by boats and a helicopter.
'There are several people that I knew really well, we worked together,' There aren't any details of what happened, no-one can say clearly what could have possibly happened. 'The only clear bit of information is that it was dark when they set off to inspect the boat', our source who knew the lost men told gazeta.ru. He claimed such boats sometimes carried more than the allowed number on board, and failed to take life jackets.
'Rubber boats are only used to go for small distances, so there are cases when people tend to ignore basic health and safety. People that work there are extremely experienced, and sometimes they get this feeling of false security and relax. It's hard to suppose what could have happened. Last time during a similar inspection the situation in the bay was very difficult - the boats are moored all around it, also there are many of sunk vessels, their wrecks and masts sticking out'.
Free lunch: Locals brought buckets to collect the surprise bounty of fish on beaches on the Tatar Strait.