Updated Jan. 2 @ 6 pm
The U.S. Coast Guard suspended the search for two missing fishermen from The Mistress, a 52-foot trawler out of Point Judith, R.I. The fishing vessel capsized and sank early New Year’s morning 2.5 miles southeast of Block Island.
The search was suspended Wednesday at 5:13 pm after nearly 72 hours of searching that covered 2,152 square miles, according to a Coast Guard release.
One fisherman was rescued by the Good Samaritan fishing boat Captain Bligh, Coast Guard Petty Officer Andrew Barresi told The Times. The Coast Guard deployed several vessels to search for the missing fishermen, Senior Chief Justin Longval, commander of Station Menemsha, said — two from Woods Hole, one from Newport, and a big cutter out of Boston. Additionally, a motor lifeboat crew launched from Station Menemsha at 9 am New Year’s Day, Longval said. While the waters the Mistress sank in are not normally part of Station Menemsha’s coverage area, Longval said the heavy weather certifications many Menemsha Coasties have were deemed essential because of rough seas off Block Island. A second motor lifeboat crew relieved the first early in the evening and continued the search. That crew returned to Menemsha at 10 pm, ceding the search to other Coast Guard assets, Longval said. As of Wednesday morning, Coast Guard aircraft and vessels, including a response boat from Point Judith, continued to hunt for the missing fishermen, according to Barresi.
Barresi said the seas were 10 feet and the winds 30 to 35 knots when the Mistress sent out a mayday at about 1:30 am. The first vessel on the scene was the Captain Bligh, he said. Its crew rescued the one fisherman from a life raft. The Coast Guard previously reported the crew of the Captain Bligh witnessed the Mistress overturn and sink, but it now deems that account erroneous and can verify that the Captain Bligh only communicated that the Mistress sank. Barresi said as of 3 pm New Year’s Day, the Captain Bligh remained active in the search for the missing fishermen with the rescued fisherman still aboard helping in the endeavor. Aircraft and surface vessels dispatched to the scene early that morning had to turn back due to rough water and low visibility, he said. Longval said fog was dense in the morning and made for too low of a ceiling for aircraft to be effective. Both a Jayhawk helicopter and an Ocean Sentry fixed-wing aircraft have scoured the vicinity of the sunken vessel since the fog cleared, Barresi said. The identity of the rescued fisherman and the missing fishermen have not been disclosed.
The Mistress required Coast Guard aid in January 2016 when it became “disabled due to a main engine casualty,” according to Barresi. The trawler was towed in on the hip of a response boat from Point Judith, Coast Guard photography shows.
Updated to provide new information about the search ending. -Ed.