When the groundfish trawler F/V EMMY ROSE headed for Gloucester on the night of November 22, 2020, the four members of the crew were giddy with laughter, excited to be coming home with the “biggest catch they’d ever had.” Throughout the evening, crew members talked with friends and family shoreside using the vessel’s satellite phone.
At 1 a.m., the F/V EMMY ROSE transmitted a position that showed the trawler to be 27 miles northeast of Provincetown, traveling at 7 knots. The next contact from the vessel came from the emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) a half hour later.
During the next three hours, the EPIRB continued to transmit signals until the Coast Guard located the device. There was no sign of the vessel or the crew.
A few hours later, helicopters spotted an empty life raft. After a search covering over 2,200 square miles, the Coast Guard suspended search and rescue efforts. Months later, the vessel was found sitting upright on the seafloor under 800 feet of water.
NTSB Calls for Mandatory Personal Locator Beacons
Though the vessel and crew were lost the night of November 22, the Coast Guard had little trouble locating the vessel’s EPIRB device. If the crew members had been carrying personal locator beacons—which function like pocket EPIRBs–the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) believes the devices could have helped rescuers find the missing mariners.
This tragedy led the NTSB to reiterate its call for mandatory personal locator beacons. Representatives went a step further and urged fishing vessel operators not to wait until for a Coast Guard mandate before outfitting crew with the devices.
Unsecured Latch Covers Led the Vessel to Capsize
After extensive investigation, the NTSB concluded that initial flooding of the vessel probably began through the cover of the lazarette hatch which lacked securing mechanisms and could therefore not be made watertight. This weakness allowed following seas and water accumulating on the deck to flood down into the lazarette compartment in the aft end of the vessel.
Investigators concluded that two freeing ports, which were supposed to drain water from the deck of the vessel, were closed so they could not fulfill their purpose, and this allowed more water to flood the deck. Since the hatch cover of the lazarette could not be secured, sloshing seawater on deck or the force of waves over the transom likely displaced the hatch cover, allowing seawater to downflood through the four-square-foot opening.
At the time of the sinking, the NTSB concluded that the F/V EMMY ROSE did not meet existing stability crieria and was suspectible to capsizing. More than likely, the sinking of the F/V EMMY ROSE was due to sudden loss of stability by water collecting on deck and flooding through the hatch covers which was against the F/V EMMY ROSE stability instructions and commercial fishing vessel regulations.
When Vessel Owners Fail to Act Responsibly, Mariners Often Suffer
In the case of the F/V EMMY ROSE, if the owner of the vessel had followed regulations, the trawler probably would not have taken on so much water and capsized so quickly. If the owner had provided crew members with personal locator beacons, rescuers might have been able to find and save them.
Safety devices are often omitted for financial reasons, but no amount of cost savings can make up for the lives lost.
The dedicated team at Latti & Anderson understands the hardships the mariners endure and the risks they take in their profession. When a vessel owner’s irresponsible actions cause injuries, we are ready to help. For a confidential consultation, contact us today.