DEPOE BAY — A tragedy that hung like a cloud over the small harbor here was put to rest Saturday during a seagoing memorial service for Dustin Couch, a popular and respected skipper who died at 37 in a car wreck.
Family and friends reported that Dustin was killed Monday, March 22, in a one-car crash on Drift Creek Road, southeast of Lincoln City. They said he is survived by a son, Colby, who he loved deeply. The accident occurred about 1:30 p.m.
Couch was a longtime resident who grew up in the Depoe Bay charter business as a deckhand for his stepfather before earning the wheel of his own boat, the Morning Star. He once served on the town’s harbor commission, went to a school for his captain’s license and later earned a diploma in diesel repair that burnished his status as a rising star in the fishing industry.
Born in Idaho, he arrived in Depoe Bay as a boy of 10 and quickly fell under the spell of boats and big fish, readily embracing the adventuresome lifestyle as a calling.
“He had great things going for him,” recalled Capt. Roman Smolcic, a former roommate and best friend who shared a charter boat on their way up the ranks, switching roles as captain and deckhand every other day. “He had a huge passion for fishing and loved boats. When he got his mechanic’s diploma he rebuilt an engine from scratch that had seized up. That’s still pushing the (charter boat) Sea Son.”
Friends recalled his broad smile, “lady-killer good looks” and a generous demeanor.
“He’d give you the shirt off his back if you needed help,” said Tim Harmon, a former charter company owner who opened his home to Dustin when his parents divorced and moved from Depoe Bay. “He was an excellent captain who had the Morning Star in his blood.”
On Saturday, March 27, Dustin Couch’s ashes were scattered at sea. Two vessels, the Mr. Max and the Sunrise, bore close friends and family following a brief-but-healing service by Pastor Luke Frechette of South Beach Church. A celebration of life will be held at a later date.
“I’m going to miss him terribly,” said Smolcic, once his inseparable buddy. “It gave me a sense of peace, knowing that he’s not suffering anymore and he’s in a better place.