GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Patriot Stories

May 15, 2009

Coast Guard leader leaving with no word on Patriot probes

For all stories related to the sinking of the Patriot fishing vessel, visit gloucestertimes.com/patriot

Less than a week after a Gloucester trawler was mysteriously lost at sea with its two-man crew, the commander of Coast Guard Sector Boston promised that an investigation into the delayed response would be swift, its findings public.

From the podium of the City Hall auditorium, Capt. Gail Kulisch said it was possible the internal investigation or "case study" could be completed within "three weeks."

The date was Jan. 9, six days after the Patriot went down about 15 miles from port.

Five days later, in a letter to the Times, the district commander, Kulisch's superior, underscored the imminence of the report. "I will be able to review the details of the response soon," Rear Adm. Dale Gabel wrote to the community.

That was four months ago.

Kulisch departs Sector Boston today for a new assignment in Virginia. And neither she nor Gabel have reported again.

Indeed, the Coast Guard has offered no further insight into the cause of the sinking — which is the subject unfolding litigation involving a Louisiana-based ocean tug company — or the Coast Guard's own performance in evaluating the flow of information in the overnight hours of Jan. 3.

There were signs and signals, none unequivocal but together imprecisely pointing to a vessel in distress not far from reach. There were the many steps in the assessment process — uncertainty, alert and distress — that finally led to an all-out effort to search for and rescue Matteo Russo, 36, the captain of the Patriot, and John Orlando, 59, his mate and father-in-law.

An official chronology of the response — known as a "case report," which was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Peter A. Stinson, a civilian employee of the Coast Guard living in Virginia, and posted on Scribd.com, a document sharing Web site — adds some clarity.

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