NEW BEDFORD — A longtime Gloucester fisherman died early Friday after slipping off an icy ramp and falling some 20 feet into the water in New Bedford Harbor while trying to board the vessel on which he was working.
Several sources confirmed to the Times Friday that the man was 47-year-old Giuseppe "Joe" Cracchiolo, who was working on board the herring boat Sunlight.
The body of the victim was found just before 7:30 a.m., next to the Sunlight, which regularly unloads its catch at New Bedford's South Terminal.
New Bedford Police Det. Lt. Jeffrey P. Silva said surveillance video shows that the victim tried to pull himself up onto a platform to board the vessel when he slipped on the ice and fell 20 feet below into the freezing harbor sometime just after 1 a.m.
A friend and fishing mate of the victim had returned to the boat earlier and gone to bed. The other man did not notice that Cracchiolo was missing until he saw the body floating next to the boat later Friday morning, Silva said.
Paul York of Gloucester, who manages the herring operations for the Sunlight and its sister vessel, the Starlight, declined to comment, saying he had not been fully informed of the circumstances.
New Bedford Police Officer Christopher Gomes, a member of the department's dive team recovered the body, which was less than 30 feet away from a ladder. However, given the freezing temperatures, it is unlikely the victim would have been able to swim out that far, authorities said.
"It took Gomes 10 minutes, wearing a full wet suit, to get to the victim because the water was so cold," Silva said.
Cracchiolo's has been sent to the Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy, the New Bedford chief said.
According to Peter Prybot, the Gloucester lobsterman who writes regularly for the Times on the fishing industry in his Ebb & Flow column, Cracchiolo was known to be "a wonderful crewman," devoted to family and "an excellent reliable fisherman who did his job."
Prybot said the Sunlight, a 110-foot midwater trawler, is based out of a home port in Rockland, Maine, but regularly fishes out of Gloucester.
Cracchiolo's death is the fifth within Gloucester's active fishing community in just a little more than two years.
The January 2009 sinking of the fishing vessel Patriot claimed the lives of Capt. Matteo Russo and his father-in-law, John Orlando. Then, Jaimie Ortiz, a Honduran immigrant working as a crewman, fell from the stern of a lobster boat and was lost in October, 2009.
Duane "Charlie" Rine, 51, died last September when he had gone underwater to try to untangle a snagged trawl net.
Cracchiolo's accident is also not the first time such a tragedy has occurred on New Bedford's waterfront during the winter months.
Robert Glover, 37, of New Castle, Maine, and Capt. Kenneth Thuestad, 48, of Mattapoisett both drowned under similar circumstances in the frigid waters near the North Terminal in January 2008 while attempting to board the scalloper Arcturus.
Material from the Standard-Times of New Bedford is included in this story.