Inspections recommended by NTSB again after fishing boat sinks

The fishing boat that sank in New England, which killed all four fishermen, likely capsized due to poor seawater drainage from the rear deck and leaking hatches, investigators say.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced on Tuesday it was stepping up inspections and renewed the call for personal locator beacons for each crew member. The agency first made this recommendation following the sinking of the El Faro freighter and 33 sailors in 2015.

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy has urged fishing vessel operators to purchase individual beacons for crew members.

“Don’t wait for the Coast Guard’s order,” Homendy said in a written statement. “If the Emmy Rose team had access to these devices, perhaps some of them would still be with us today.”

Tragedy unfolded as Portland-based Emmy Rose was on her way to Gloucester, Massachusetts to offload an estimated 45,000 pounds of fish in November 2020.

A crew member told his friend over the phone that it was the biggest catch on the 82-foot vessel, and she told investigators she heard crew members laughing and having fun in the background.

A few hours later, early on the morning of November 23, the ship’s automatic emergency beacon gave a signal. The Emmy Rose disappeared without a distress call.

The Coast Guard sent a boat and helicopter, followed by other boats and aircraft, to an area about 25 miles east of Provincetown, Massachusetts. Rescuers found an oily sheen, an empty life raft and some wreckage. The fishermen were never restored.

Forecasting wind gusts of up to 25 knots and sea levels of 5 to 8 feet, the Emmy Rose made her way back to shore in conditions that could endanger the trawler as waves lapped the rear deck. The NTSB said that seawater likely accumulated on the back deck of the vessel, did not drain properly, and then entered the vessel through leaking hatches, making the vessel less stable.

According to the NTSB, the Emmy Rose was more prone to rollover due to its design and modifications. The vessel was originally built for shrimp fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and has been modified to trawl fish in New England waters.

“NTSB investigators found that at the time of the sinking, the Emmy Rose likely did not meet existing stability criteria, making it more susceptible to capsizing,” the agency said in a report.

The NTSB is unable to authorize changes, but has recommended inspection of port covers designed to drain water from decks and watertight hatches, as well as personal beacons for crew members. The Coast Guard did not immediately return a call asking for comment on Wednesday.

Commercial fishing vessels must have an automatic emergency beacon that floats freely and signals to rescuers. But individuals are not required to have them.

The judge awarded the families of the fishermen nearly $1 million in damages. U.S. District Judge John Woodcock ordered the distribution of insurance payments from boat owner Aaron & Melissa Inc.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

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