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January 9, 2009

Coast Guard investigates second boat

Crew being questioned about fatal sinking of trawler Patriot

Hours after a funeral Mass and burial of the father and husband of Josie Russo, the Coast Guard revealed last night it had made a potential break in the investigation into the mysterious sinking early Saturday of the men's modern, well-equipped fishing boat, the Patriot.

At a Boston news conference, Capt. Gail Kulisch announced the investigation has come upon "the possibility of another vessel in the area at the time of the sinking."

The commander of Sector Boston, Kulisch revealed little about this other boat but said it is possible the second vessel was "directly involved" or a witness to the demise of the 54-foot, steel-hulled Patriot, which Josie and Matteo Russo purchased last year and then converted it into a model for the modern Gloucester trawler.

All signs of the sinking pointed to a lightning fast catastrophe.

Investigative officers were on board and interviewing the crew of the second boat, said Kulisch, who earlier had scheduled meetings in Gloucester today with the political leadership and the mourning families of Matteo Russo, 36, and John Orlando, 59.

They went out fishing Friday night.

At her news conference, Kulisch deflected questions about the command decisions that effectively and collectively put off launching the search and rescue operation for more than two hours after the Gloucester Fire Department, responding to a remote fire alarm signal from the Patriot, reported that the vessel was at sea.

Josie Russo said she pleaded with Sector Boston to launch a search for the Patriot. "When my sister called and said the fire alarm is going off on the boat, isn't that a distress call?" her older brother Dominic Orlando asked.

He and family members spoke to the Times about their uncertainties about how and why Russo and Orlando died. Both were considered first-rate boatmen and fishermen, and had reputations for giving safety top priority.

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