GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Patriot Stories

January 22, 2009

Photo project cleared: Coast Guard OKs underwater exam of Patriot

Coast Guard OKs underwater exam

The Coast Guard yesterday approved the first underwater photographic examination of the Patriot. The demise of the Gloucester fishing boat and the deaths of both its crew members remain a mystery 20 days after it was seemingly swallowed by the sea.

Bill Lee, a commercial fisherman and noted underwater photographer, said he would take a small team, including an insurance adjuster and a Coast Guard official, to the site of the wreck today. The Patriot rests in about 100 feet of water, about 15 miles southeast of Gloucester.

A Coast Guard spokeswoman said Sector Boston has formally requested permission from Coast Guard headquarters in Washington to do its own official photographic study of the wreck.

"Our request is still (pending)," Petty Officer Lauren Jorgensen said.

She said the approval of Adm. Thad Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, is required because the service as a policy does not do underwater work on wrecks.

Lee said he planned to leave in his fishing boat The Ocean Reporter from the Gloucester harbormaster's dock adjacent to the Coast Guard station at 7 a.m., and return in mid-afternoon with photos and video. He promised to make them available to all interested parties.

Lee said the Coast Guard agreed to his condition that his findings would go into the public domain.

Coast Guard Capt. and Sector Boston Cmdr. Gail P. Kulisch, assigned to manage twin investigations into what happened to the Patriot and into the Coast Guard's delayed response, authorized Lee's expedition.

In a letter, Kulisch said she found the plan "acceptable" and authorized Lee to photograph the wreck "without disturbing it."

Frustrated by the pace of the inquiries, the families of the Patriot's lost crew — Matteo Russo, 36, and his father-in-law, John Orlando, 59 — commissioned the Lee expedition to the wreck.

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