Families of crew from sunken fishing vessel get nearly $1M

The dragger Emmy Rose, seen in Gloucester Harbor early in 2020, sank Nov. 23, with four crewmen aboard. One of the fishermen was Michael Porper of Gloucester.

A judge has awarded nearly $1 million in damages to the families of a Gloucester fisherman and three crew mates who died when their boat mysteriously sank off Cape Cod in 2020.

The 82-foot Portland, Maine-based Emmy Rose went down early Nov. 23, 2020, as it was heading to port after a seven-day fishing trip, the National Transportation Safety Board said. The Emmy Rose’s fishermen had harvested groundfish such as haddock and were scheduled to land the catch at Fisherman’s Wharf in Gloucester. Among the crew was Michael Porper Jr., 38, of Gloucester and Peaks Island, Maine.

A total of $960,000 in insurance proceeds from the boat owner, Boat Aaron & Melissa Inc. of Westbrook, Maine, was distributed among the families by U.S. District Judge John Woodcock this week.

The families agreed to accept the money in exchange for an order releasing the owner from further liability. The judge also exonerated the owner.

Woodcock wrote that each man died “an unspeakably tragic and terrible death.”

“Again, there is no evidence about how the vessel went down and it is possible that it sank suddenly and without warning, but it is more likely that there was some period of panic as the seamen worked in horrific conditions to avoid its and their awful demise,” Woodcock wrote.

The vessel made no distress calls. The Coast Guard searched more than 2,200 square miles over a 38-hour period, yet found nothing more than a debris field, diesel fuel odor, an emergency beacon and an empty life raft.

The crew — Porper, Capt. Robert Blethen Jr., of Georgetown, Maine; Jeffrey Matthews, of Portland, Maine; and Ethan Ward, of Pownal, Maine — was never found.

The steel-hulled Emmy Rose was found in May, in an upright position with its outriggers deployed, in about 800 feet of water on the seafloor about 25 miles off Provincetown, the NTSB said.

Federal authorities partnered with the National Science Foundation and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in September to survey the sunken vessel using a remotely operated vehicle. The vehicle yielded videos and high-resolution photos that are being used by investigators trying to determine why the vessel went down.

Porper was raised and attended schools in Gloucester, and started working on fishing boats when he 15, according to his father. He was the scion of a longtime Gloucester fishing family — his great grandfather, Capt. Robert Porper, skippered several fishing schooners, most notably the Cavalier in the early 1900s, and was a “highliner” in the fishery, his vessels catching more halibut than any other Gloucester schooners.

Porper’s family is working to have his name added to the Fishermen’s Memorial cenotaph on Stacy Boulevard, where it would join the names of three relatives: William A. Porper (1890), John A. Porper, (1911), and William H. Porper.

He left two children, Myiah Olivia Porper, daughter of Holly O’Connor, and Grace Ann Porper, daughter of Ashley Gross, his fiancee.

Gross said in a statement provided by her attorney, Joseph Orlando of Gloucester, that she believed the judge did a fair job of dividing the limited insurance between the four families.

“There is no amount of money that will bring my friends and fiance back,” Gross said Thursday. “The judgment doesn’t bring us closure but does bring some peace of mind that Michael was able to contribute to his daughters’ future.”

Each of the four men’s estates will receive $126,201, while awards for their minor children ranged from $31,383 to $110,700.

An email was left Friday for the attorney who represented the Emmy Rose’s owner.

Much of the material used in this report came from The Associated Press.

For copyright information, check with the distributor of this item, Portland Press Herald.

Trending Video

Recommended for you