Gloucester lost one of its fishing sons on Monday afternoon when 49-year-old Nicolo Vitale, a crewman aboard the Miss Sandy, went overboard as the vessel returned from fishing and later died at Addison Gilbert Hospital.

The cause of death was not immediately released.

Chief Warrant Officer John Roberts, commander at the Coast Guard's Station Gloucester, said the Coast Guard received a distress call from the Miss Sandy's captain, Vince Taormina, that a crew member had gone into the water off the boat's deck and could not be located.

"He said he turned around and his crew member wasn't there," Roberts said. "He said he didn't even know how long he was missing. He said it could have been up to two miles."

Capt. Al Cottone of the Sabrina Maria, who often fishes in tandem with the Miss Sandy, said the Miss Sandy was about a mile outside the breakwater when Taormina discovered Vitale missing from the deck. 

Roberts said the Coast Guard launched a 29-foot boat and a 47-foot lifesaving boat from Station Gloucester. He said Sector Boston also dispatched a helicopter to assist in the search.

Gloucester fishing vessels Santo Pio, owned and captained by Joe Orlando, and the Angela + Rose, which is owned and captained by Paul Vitale, Nicolo Vitale's cousin, joined the search.

Roberts said the Santo Pio located Nicolo Vitale in the water. Harbormaster T. J. Ciarametaro said the water temperature Monday afternoon was about 45 degrees. Again, it was unclear how long he had been in the water.

"He was head down in the water and unresponsive when the Santo Pio located him," Roberts said. "Our 29-foot boat was about a quarter-mile away and rushed right over. They pulled him aboard and headed in."

Roberts said Coast Guard personnel worked on Nicolo Vitale the entire trip back to Station Gloucester. They were met by Gloucester police and the Fire Department rescue squad, which took over trying to resuscitate Nicolo Vitale.

As word of the incident spread around Gloucester, more than a dozen family and friends — including Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, Angela Sanfilippo of the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association and Cottone — made their way to Station Gloucester for an informal vigil.

Around 4:30 p.m., as the rescue squad continued to try to resuscitate Nicolo Vitale, the ambulance left for Addison Gilbert Hospital. About 20 minutes later, family members still at Solomon Jacobs Landing adjacent to Station Gloucester received the call that Nicolo Vitale had died.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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