Signs Of Wreck Stir Pain, Anguish
By Jack Sullivan
Nearly one year after the fishing boat Atlantis and its five crew members were swallowed by the sea without a trace, a Boston based marine lawyer says he has found the ill-fated trawler lying on the ocean floor, 300 feet below the surface and just a quarter mile from its last reported position.
The potential discovery has rekindled the anguish of the families of the crew.
“If it is the boat, please bring the bodies up so they can have a proper burial,” Rosa Barroqueiro, the 31-year-old wife of the boats’ captain, said in Portuguese. “If they are inside the boat, that would extremely sad. I would have to see it in order to believe it.”
Using a sophisticated deep-sea probe, Michael Latti, the lawyer representing four families of the missing crew members in a pending suit against the boat owners, said he has found compelling proof the Atlantis has been found. It is rare for a missing boat to be discovered intact and rarer still for expensive modern technology to be employed in finding such wrecks. But Latti said it could give clues as to why the Atlantis went down, offer insight into other tragedies and prevent some future fatalities.
The remote operated vessel (ROV) hired by Latti sent back signals outlining a sunken fishing boat and clear pictures of a hull, stairwell, outriggers, masts and other markings. The ROV is an unmanned probe operated from the surface. Latti said three separate sonar soundings have confirmed the wreck is the dimensions as the 72-foot Atlantis.
That finding, plus the fact that the last known location of the Atlantis is just several hundred yards from the newly found wreck, and that no hazards have been reported in this well-charted area lead Latti and other to believe the wreck can only be one thing. “We have compared it with photos of the Atlantis,” said Latti. “The boom is exactly the same…The video almost proves conclusively that this is the Atlantis.”
But Coast Guard officials, the boat owner and insurance agents say they won’t help retrieve the remains of the crew or the boat unless they can be convinced it is the Atlantis and the cost can be justified. “We’re not going to dive on the boat,” said Capt. Herbert D. Robinson, commanding officer of the Coast Guard’s marine safety office in Providence. “The insurance underwriter may do that.”
“We’d be more than happy to join in the collecting of the results of such a venture, but we’re not going to spend federal dollars for such a venture,” he said. “I do not foresee a circumstance where we would go down to get bodies. We don’t even know if they are there.” Robinson plans to view Latti’s videotape in the next week and decide whether to reopen the investigation.
A Coast Guard source said privately that since no other wrecks have been reported in that vicinity, “it’s a strong possibility” that the boat is the Atlantis.
The Atlantis and its five crew members- Francisco Barroqueiro, 32, Edgar Lobo, 34, Joaquin Caseiro, 59, Johnny B. Barros, 43, and Antonio Pinho- set out on their last fishing trip on year ago this week. They pulled into Nantucket about a week later for repairs to the fresh water tank and went back out to finish the trip. It was last reported seen about Oct. 26. A massive 100,000-square-mile search by the Coast Guard found nothing.
But about two weeks ago, the crew of a New Bedford-based fishing boat, the Costa & Corvo, discovered signs of a wreck in dragging nets 95 miles southeast of New Bedford.
Crew members found two antenna brackets and two “day shapes” or markers to indicate a boat is fishing. They did not notify the Coast Guard of their find, but word spread around the docks that the Atlantis had been found, prompting Latti to launch his own search.
Family members are torn. They hope that it is the Atlantis so they can lay their pain and their loved ones to rest. But if it is the missing boat, they must let go of the notion that, someday, the men would return.
“Always, there is lots of sadness,” Fatima Barros said through and interpreter. Fatima’s husband of just six months, Johnny, was the cook on the Atlantis. “Always I am thinking about if he is alive or dead. I continue to hope.” If this is the Atlantis, some family members said they want the boat checked for bodies.
Antonio Pedrosa, the boat’s owner, did not return a call for comment but Michael Collier, a marine surveyor contracted by Pedrosa’s insurance company to look into the case, said the items pulled up by the Costa & Corvo are inconclusive. Collier said Pedrosa has not claimed the day shapes and brackets were the Atlantis’, contrary to dockside scuttlebutt.
Collier said a diving team may be sent down after the videotape is examined and the boat’s location pinpointed. But the team would only find out if the boat is the Atlantis and determine the cause of its sinking, he said.