The 69-foot steel-hulled Misty Blue was lost 10 miles off Nantucket, Mass., on Monday, Dec. 4, after its crew issued a distress call around 6 p.m. The boat rolled over while harvesting surf clams with four fishermen aboard.
The Misty Blue’s captain, Eric Arabian, 44, and crewman Colby McMullen, 22, were rescued by the F/V Enterprise, which was working in the area. But Michael Roberts, 44, and Jonathan Saraiva, 32, have not been found. The two known survivors were reportedly wearing survival suits at the time of the incident, while the two missing were donning their suits when the boat rolled.
The Enterprise and two other fishing boats searched the area for the missing crew members, according to a statement from Atlantic Capes Fisheries, which controls the Misty Blue’s operator, New Jersey-based Sea Harvest. The Misty Blue’s life raft was found empty.
The Coast Guard took over the search, covering a 1,605 square-nautical-mile area without finding the lost crew members, but they did spot a debris field within an hour of the accident.
According to State Police spokesman David Procopio, a police dive team may have discovered the sunken vessel.
“Through the use of… sonar, search teams located a large object underwater believed to be the vessel,” he said in a statement.
Weather and ocean conditions prevented troopers from diving to inspect the boat on Tuesday and Wednesday, but Procopio expected a team to dive on Thursday.
The incident has highlighted a $1.5 million civil action lawsuit against the Misty Blue and Sea Harvest filed by a former crew member on Nov. 8 in U.S. District Court in South Boston.
Matthew Lyons had just cleaned out the fish hold on Sept. 15 and was climbing a ladder when a section of decking gave way, causing him to fall and shatter his heel, according to reports. The lawsuit cites “unseaworthy” conditions aboard the vessel, but Lyons’ attorney Joseph Abromovitz clarified to the Standard-Times that this was a legal term used to describe any unsafe condition on a fishing boat.
“We don’t allege that the vessel was unseaworthy in a layman’s terms,” he told the Standard-Times. “We allege that there was an unseaworthy condition that caused Matt Lyons’ accident. It doesn’t matter if it’s an inconsiderate seagull that picked up a chicken bone and dropped it on the barge, that’s an unseaworthy condition.”
At a press conference on Tuesday, Chad Brayton, vessel manager for Atlantic Capes Fisheries, said there were no known complaints or issues with the Misty Blue.
“Everything is up to date,” he said. “The boat is in great shape.”