By Marjorie Nesin
---- — Gloucester Police are teaming up with U.S. Coast Guard officials to investigate the offshore death of a 40-year-old man aboard a 107-foot herring trawler that arrived in Gloucester late Sunday afternoon — and with a small amount of a class A substance found on the vessel, authorities said.
Crew members aboard the trawler Osprey first called in a report of a crew member, Michael Grindle, suffering what they said appeared to be a “severe asthma attack” about 3:45 a.m. Sunday, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Coast Guard.
Officials have ruled out foul play in Grindle’s death. And Essex County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Carrie Kimball Monahan said Sunday night that the incident “appears to have been the result of a medical emergency; however, the coroner must determine the manner of death.”
Sources close to the case, however, said the death is being investigated as an “unknown medical condition” that killed Grindle, who resides in Blue Hill, a coastal town in Maine, but had been fishing aboard the Osprey for about two months and living at a Mystic Avenue home in Gloucester while working out of the port, said Police Chief Leonard Campanello.
When the trawler dialed in at about 65 miles away from Chatham early Sunday morning, the Coast Guard ordered the vessel to dock at its nearest station, which happened to be Gloucester. The crew then steamed north and the green vessel tied up at the otherwise vacant Empire fish wharf adjacent to Coast Guard Gloucester about 4:30 p.m. Three members of the medical examiner’s office, clad in blue shirts, hoisted a body bag from the vessel not long after.
Police had found Grindle’s body on the floor of his stateroom. Also in the room, police found a “small amount of an undisclosed substance,” consistent with Class A substances, which can include heroin.
Police do not expect to file charges in the case, Campanello said late Sunday night.
During interviews with police, crew members said Grindle was asthmatic. They told police that Grindle had complained of feeling “a little woozy” in the late hours of Saturday night, but refused transportation back to Gloucester, Campanello said. Grindle took a watch on the trawler from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Shortly after Grindle’s watch, the captain heard a banging on the bulkhead to his quarters. It was Grindle knocking and asking that he call Coast Guard for help. The captain entered the room and found Grindle in respiratory distress, grasping a nebulizer device, the crew told police.
Grindle collapsed while the crew spoke to Coast Guard personnel over the phone, according to police. The Coast Guard instructed crew members to initiate CPR and they began pumping Grindle’s chest but stopped at the guard’s instruction around 4 a.m. when they found Grindle’s heart no longer carried a pulse.
Later, thunder rumbled and crackled about as a Gloucester police officer coaxed a department drug sniffing K9 dog to climb tenderly aboard the vessel about 6 p.m. The dog steered his handler to the pilot house, but turned up no additional drugs beyond what searchers had already found, Campanello said.
Three crew members and one NOAA observer had been riding aboard the trawler, which had left port not long before crews were dialing in the medical emergency. The fishermen had yet to begin trawling the sea for fish, officials said.
“While this death did not appear to have anything to do with an ocean-related event,” Campanello said, “it’s always sad to hear of the loss of a fisherman in the act of performing his job and we extend our sympathies to his family and friends.”
Members of the Massachusetts State Police’s detectives unit, the Gloucester Police and the US Coast Guard investigated the case Sunday. The state medical examiner’s office and their detectives unit will continue the investigation, officials said Sunday night.
The Osprey, registered to Peter Mullen, had also been subject of a Coast Guard investigation in January, when it ran aground near Ten Pound Island in Gloucester Harbor spilling more than 150 gallons of No. 2 heating oil into the nearby cove off Rocky Neck. It was not clear Sunday whether that investigation had been completed or how it may have been resolved.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.