The Cushing captain accused of causing the deaths of two crew members when his lobster boat sank during a gale says his client didn’t consent to a blood test that showed he was under the influence of drugs at the time and the results should be thrown out of court.

Christopher A. Hutchinson, 29, is charged with two counts of seaman’s manslaughter in the deaths of Tom Hammond, 27, of Rockland and 15-year-old Tyler Sawyer, who lived in St. George and Waldoboro. They were crew members aboard Hutchinson’s lobster boat, No Limits, which sank Nov. 1, 2014. The charges carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is opposing the pretrial motion filed on Hutchinson’s behalf to exclude the test results. The case is being heard in U.S. District Court in Portland.

On the night of the sinking, one of two drug dealers who is alleged to have provided oxycodone to Hutchinson suggested to Travis Sawyer, Tyler Sawyer’s father, that he ask the Coast Guard to test the captain for drugs, according to a court filing by the prosecution. The father contacted the Coast Guard and a blood sample was drawn shortly before Hutchinson was released from Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Hutchinson agreed to the request in the presence of his parents and friends, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office response to the defense’s motion to suppress.

The prosecution maintains that Hutchinson purchased 20 30-milligram oxycodone pills from two separate drug dealers, smoked marijuana with Sawyer’s father and drank a rum and coke at a Rockland restaurant on Halloween, according to the motion filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He then departed for the fishing trip at 1 a.m. Nov. 1 from Linda Bean’s dock in Tenants Harbor as rain began to fall.


The emergency locator signal on the vessel activated at 1:30 p.m. that day, when the vessel sank. A Coast Guard helicopter found Hutchinson in a life raft without a survival suit or life preserver at 4 p.m. The bow of the No Limits was spotted by the helicopter at 5 p.m. with no signs of life. The helicopter left the search for the missing crew members in order to take Hutchinson to the hospital for treatment of exposure and a cut to his head.

The prosecution stated in its court motion that Hutchinson admitted to Travis Sawyer during a Nov. 2 telephone call and in person on Nov. 3 that he was “dirty” at the time of the sinking.

Hutchinson admitted to attorneys for his insurance company on Dec. 11 that he had taken the oxycodone and smoked marijuana. He also told Coast Guard investigators on Jan. 13, 2015, that he knew what the blood test would detect, informing them that he bought the painkillers off the street for back and shoulder pain.

Hutchinson’s attorney, Michael Turndorf of Portland, argued in his motion to suppress that the blood test was taken without a court warrant.

Turndorf said the Coast Guard had no suspicion that Hutchinson was under the influence through its contact with him and that a blood alcohol test showed no alcohol in his system.

The defense attorney also pointed out that the medical staff at Maine Med had refused a request by the Coast Guard to take a blood test. The Coast Guard then contacted a Gorham police officer trained in taking blood samples.


Hutchinson’s mother was in the hospital room and objected to the blood test, but the officer said it was mandatory, according to the defense motion. The defense claims Hutchinson was asleep in a hospital bed when the sample was taken from an existing intravenous line. He never signed a consent form for the test, Turndorf maintains.

Hutchinson’s trial is scheduled for February. The prosecution plans to call 35 to 40 witnesses during the trial, which is expected to last 10 days.

Hutchinson was initially released on bail after being charged in December 2016 with manslaughter, but in April was ordered detained until trial after he admitted to overdosing on heroin March 13 at a residence in Friendship. Two doses of Narcan were administered to revive Hutchinson.

The prosecution noted that Hutchinson was still operating a lobster boat and said he posed a risk to the public.

In a newspaper interview a few days after his boat sank, Hutchinson said the No Limits was returning to the mainland after a day of hauling traps when the seas and winds quickly intensified, causing the 45-foot fiberglass boat to flip.

A weather buoy nearby measured wind gusts of 40 knots and waves of up to 14 feet. The boat overturned several miles west of Matinicus, he said.

In July 2015, Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings ruled that $170,500 in damages should go to Michelle Miete of Washington, personal representative for Hammond’s estate, and the remaining $139,500 of the settlement fund should go to Lisa Chickering and Travis Sawyer, Tyler Sawyer’s parents and personal representatives of his estate.

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