Former SSA member died of barbiturate overdose
File photo by Ralph Stewart
State officials confirmed this week that Kathryn Roessel of Tisbury, former Vineyard Steamship Authority (SSA) member, died last November from acute secobarbital intoxication.
Secobarbital is a barbiturate that is used in the short-term treatment of insomnia. It is also used as a sedative to relieve anxiety before surgery.
Ms. Roessel, 51, was found dead on the front porch of her Vineyard Haven home on Nov. 27, last year. The Cape and Islands district attorney's office, which investigates unattended deaths, has kept the case open while it waited for toxicology results from the medical examiner's office.
Michael Trudeau, first assistant district attorney with the Cape and Islands district attorney's office, said that the toxicology report and the final autopsy were delivered to his office last month. He said that there was no evidence of foul play.
Asked if it is typical for toxicology reports to take 10 months to complete, Mr. Trudeau said, "It is not unusual for there to be some delay. The tests are sent to different facilities, and that takes time. We also asked for several different types of tests, which added to the delay."
Mr. Trudeau would not comment further on the case. He said that the final autopsy report would not be released publicly.
A native of Rochester, N.Y., Ms. Roessel, a lawyer in the entertainment industry in New York, purchased a house on Winyah Circle in Vineyard Haven and moved to Martha's Vineyard to live fulltime in 1999.
After serving on the Tisbury planning board and Tisbury harbor management committee, Ms. Roessel applied for the position of SSA Island representative. In December 2001, a majority of county commissioners voted to appoint Ms. Roessel to a three-year term in place of J.B. Riggs Parker of Chilmark.
Under her watch, the SSA underwent many changes and grappled with issues of boatline management and leadership. She was a staunch supporter of Fred Raskin, the boatline chief executive officer who resigned last year after a turbulent two-year tenure. She also participated in the creation of a year-round, privately operated, SSA licensed fast ferry service between New Bedford and the Vineyard.
Shortly before her death and the expiration of her term Ms. Roessel and her fellow board members signed a $31 million contract authorizing the construction of a new vessel to replace the aging Islander. The board also agreed to adopt the name that Ms. Roessel chose - Island Home, after a vessel that served the Nantucket route more than a century ago. In April, Ms. Roessel's signature was integrated into a plaque for the new boat at a keel-laying ceremony at the shipyard in Mississippi where Island Home is being built.