GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Patriot Stories

January 21, 2009

Families push for underwater Patriot photos

Elected officials and a lawyer for the estate of one of two Gloucester fishermen who died in the unexplained, rapid sinking of the Patriot early this month pressed the Coast Guard yesterday for a definitive, "subsurface" examination of the wreck.

Coast Guard Sector Boston, which is conducting two related probes — the first into what caused the sinking early Jan. 3, the second an internal case study of the delayed Coast Guard response to the emergency — has thus far obtained sonar but no photographic images of the 54-foot fishing boat in its resting place, on the sandy bottom about 100 feet down and 15 miles southeast of Gloucester.

Petty Officer Lauren Jorgensen said yesterday Sector Boston was "still considering" photographing the wreck. But she said decision to do so required multiple approvals in Washington and could not be authorized by Sector Boston.

"It would have to go through proper channels," said the public affairs officer. "It would have to go to headquarters in Washington."

The "sonar picture is worthless," said attorney Stephen Ouellette on behalf of the estate of John Orlando, 59, who died with his son-in-law, co-owner and Capt. Matteo Russo, 36, when the steel-hulled boat vanished so quickly no Mayday was called.

Josie Russo, the co-owner of the Patriot, and her late husband's estate are represented by Boston attorney Joseph Abromovitz, who could not be reached for comment yesterday. No lawsuits have been filed. For now, the related interests of the families that are linked by marriage through Josie Orlando Russo are considered "parties of interest" in the twin investigations into the strange misfortune that took the Patriot and its crew.

Jorgensen said the sonar was used only to establish the precise location of the wreck, not provide forensic evidence that might help investigators figure out what happened.

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