It’s been more than four years now since the Gloucester-ported fishing vessel Patriot went down, sadly taking Capt. Matteo Russo and his father-and-law and sole crew member, John Orlando, with it.
And it’s been four years since officials with the U.S. Coast Guard, under intense and understandable verbal and political fire from Gloucester and the New England fishing community for its admittedly delayed response to the capsizing, carried out a series of protocol and other changes to re-affirm its search-and-rescue priorities when there is a report of a boat having gone down or facing some other offshore emergency.
So it’s also understandable that some might question the Guard’s response in the wee hours of this past Sunday morning, when the crew of the Gloucester-based herring trawler Osprey reported a crew colleague was in the midst of a severe asthma attack reported 65 miles off the Cape Cod community of Chatham, and — rather than send a rescue helicopter and other aid — the Coast Guard instead spoke with the crew, which was administering CPR measures, and instead advised the Osprey to head for the nearest port.
Michael Grindle, the 40-year-old crew member who lived in Maine and had a place in Gloucester for the last two months while he was working on the 107-foot Osprey, lost his battle at sea that morning. And as that became apparent, the Osprey headed for his home port of Gloucester rather than go to a nearer port off Cape Cod, leading to a 12-hour trip.
Bryan Swintek, command center chief at the Coast Guard’s Sector Southeastern New England, noted Monday that there is a service policy of how and when to send helicopters based on survival numbers after CPR, noting that statistics show a person undergoing chest compressions will typically survive for less than an hour without access to a heart defibrillator — and that was the case aboard the Osprey.
And Coast Guard spokeswoman Myeonghi Clegg said that, to break from the CPR compressions in order to hoist Grindle into the helicopter would have only proved more detrimental to Grindle’s critical health.
Our condolences go out to Grindle’s family members and his Osprey colleagues. And, clearly, the Coast Guard faced a hard choice early Sunday morning.
But, painful as it seems, it was also the right call.