Family remembers woman who died in fishing boat crash

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Billie Jo Hooton’s sisters describe her as a beloved mother, sister and friend. They say she was selfless and loved water.

FLORENCE, Ore. — Billie Jo Hooton was on a fishing boat off Florence last weekend when it broke down. Today, her family wishes to share her memories, remembering her as a strong woman, proud to flourish in a demanding profession.

Mollie Gower and Brandi Christner said their sister, Hooton, was an inspiration.

“You don’t hear of a lot of women doing what she did, and she did it well,” Christner said.

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Hooton was a mother, sister, aunt, friend, and lived by fishing.

“She was very proud, so proud that she could be a strong fisherwoman,” Gower said. “She didn’t know at first if she was going to be able to handle it, but she did.”

Last Friday, Hooton, 39, went salmon fishing with her boat captain, Mike Morgan, 68. The US Coast Guard received a distress call around midnight Saturday morning from a location about 35 miles west of Florence.

Morgan said his boat sank with him and another worker on board. A lifeboat was dispatched, finding debris in the water and an unresponsive woman. Hooton was later pronounced dead.

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Crews continued to search for Morgan for over 24 hours, but the search effort was eventually called off.

“Unfortunately, we don’t go through a year without tragedy,” said Taunette Dixon. She is with Newport Fisher Wives, a non-profit organization providing resources and support to fishing families. “It’s actually the most dangerous job, especially during Dungeness crabbing season.”

The group worked with the City of Newport to bring a Fisherman’s Memorial Shrine at Yaquina Bay State Park over 20 years ago. It is open to the public 24/7 so people can pay their respects to the hundreds lost at sea.

Dixon said Hooton and Morgan’s names will now be added to the memorial – and Hooton will continue to inspire her sisters, who remember all the joy she brought to their lives.

“Never go a day without telling people I love that I love them and how much they mean to me…because that’s what she did every time she saw someone she loved “, said Gower.

The family started a GoFundMe to help with a memorial for Hooton.

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