captain they called Rookie made his home back where the oak and pine woods
humming with cicadas meet the Bon Secour River and where the asphalt peters out
into a dead end.
This is where friends came to ask
how William Allen “Rookie” Kruse was doing, back in April, when the Gulf of
Mexico oil spill ended his $5,000 fishing trips for marlin and red snapper and
put a crimp in his wife Tracy’s seafood business.
Fine, he said.
They asked again after he became
frustrated with the hoops BP representatives kept making him jump through to
get work on the cleanup.
Still fine, Kruse said.
On Wednesday morning, Kruse
reported as usual to the Gulf Shores marina to work for the company that had
ruined his fishing. His two deck hands said that when he sent them on an errand
before 7.30am, he seemed fine.
But shortly afterward, Kruse
climbed up to the wheelhouse of the Rookie, retrieved a Glock handgun he kept
for protection and apparently shot himself in the head.
His family and friends say he is
the 12th victim of the April 20 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, which killed
11 crew members. And they worry that there will be more among the captains
idled by the worst spill in US history.
“But for the oil spill, I don’t
think he would have done this,” said his twin brother, Frank Kruse.
Getting past ‘I’m fine’
Families here are not apt to call
out captains who withdraw or put on a brave front. The Kruse family is counting
on the close-knit community of fishing captains to care for its own.
“Somebody’s got to get past that
‘I’m fine,’” Frank Kruse said.
Rookie Kruse, 55, did not leave a
note, only questions.
Tracy Kruse, 41, noticed her sturdy
husband had started to lose weight and was having trouble sleeping.
Two weeks ago, Kruse went to work
for BP, turning his 52- and 43-foot boats, the Rookie and the Rookie II, into
what the oil giant calls Vessels of Opportunity. He was never given a day off.
“He told me he hated it,” said his
12-year-old stepson, Ryan Mistrot. “He hated going out for BP.”
Frank Kruse, who lives in nearby
Fairhope, Ala., said he watched his brother’s spirit shaved down by the
relentless bureaucracy of BP, heaping concerns on a man who for years had never
worried about much except the weather.
“Every time they got over one
hurdle, there was another,” Kruse said of his brother. “I guess he looked long
term and saw what’s going to happen when this is all over and the Gulf is
“My question,” says Ryan, sitting
tan, shirtless and barefoot on the tile porch floor, “is why did the Rookie
never get a day off?”
Last Friday, Rookie Kruse told his
elderly mother he had no money coming in but he expected to get paid in a few
“He said, ‘Don’t worry about me
mother, I’ll be fine,’” Marolyn Kruse said, stifling tears. “That was the last
Kruse filed a 52-page invoice
Monday to get the money BP owed him for two weeks’ work – about $4,700. He half
expected BP would reject it. By then, he was down from 219 pounds to 185, his
“In a few weeks, the repo man’s at
your house,” said Kruse’s brother Marc. “That’s a very scary situation.”
Several fellow captains stopped by
Kruse’s modest single-story ranch house Wednesday. The captain’s widow welcomed
them. They were his second family, a society in which he was considered a big
name. She withdrew from the crowd, preferring the deck that overlooks a river
that translates as “good comfort.”