, Gloucester, MA

Patriot Stories

January 5, 2009

Patriot 'mystery'

Coast Guard: No sign of fire in vessel debris

The Coast Guard's regional search and rescue chief said yesterday there was no sign of fire involved in the unexplained sinking early Saturday of a working, apparently shipshape commercial fishing boat whose crew of two were found dead in the water.

The first and only known warning that something was amiss with the 54-foot Patriot — an 11-year-old, steel-hulled trawler fishing on Middle Bank — was a remote fire alarm notice to the captain's wife and the boat's co-owner, Josephine Russo, who was at home in Gloucester, Coast Guard Cmdr. Nathan Knapp said yesterday. Knapp also said burns were not found on the bodies of her husband, Matteo Russo, 36, and her father John Orlando, 58, nor on any of the debris that was picked up.

"It's a mystery, it doesn't make sense," said Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association.

A noted commercial diver has agreed to examine the wreck for the family.

Neither fisherman apparently had time to don the survival suits carried by the Patriot, a boat the Russos acquired early last year and modernized into a model craft that was recently featured in a photo spread by lobster dealer Joey Ciaramitaro on his blog, GoodMorningGloucester.

As the large family yesterday gathered around the widow, Josephine Russo, who is pregnant, and her nearly 3-year-old son, Salvatore, to grieve and wonder about what happened, Nathan said the Coast Guard together with the Massachusetts State Police would resume their investigation into the cause of the incident.

He said the Coast Guard would interview people with direct knowledge of the Patriot, its gear and the technology that the owners had installed while outfitting it a year ago.

He said foul play was not suspected, noting that the state police's involvement is triggered by an unexplained death or deaths.

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