The Emmy Rose, outbound from Gloucester Harbor in Massachusetts on Sept. 29. Photo by Robert Serbagi

PHIPPSBURG — A 20-year-old Phippsburg woman has raised more than $100,000 to help the families of a fishing crew who perished at sea last week.

The Portland-based fishing vessel Emmy Rose sank off the coast of Massachusetts during the early morning hours of Nov. 23. The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for the men the next evening, the Portland Press Herald reported.

The crew members were identified as Robert Blethen Jr. of Georgetown, Jeff Matthews of Portland, Ethan Ward of Pownal and Mike Porper of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Blethen was captain of the 82-foot fishing vessel. The boat was headed toward Gloucester when it sank.

The boat was owned by Rink Varian. His daughter, Rosalee Varian of Phippsburg, who organized the fundraiser, said she was shocked by the sinking.

“I’ve seen it in movies, but I never thought it’d happen on my dad’s boat and to people so close to us,” Rosalee Varian said. “It took me seeing my dad in shambles to realize the scope of this tragedy.”

Varian said she was inspired to act after listening to Coast Guard briefings with her father and watching the fishermen’s families grieve.

“I couldn’t imagine losing my dad like that,” she said. “I felt really terrible for those families who had to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner missing a family member. I’m only 20 and I don’t have a lot of resources to offer those families, but I know how to run a computer.”

Her GoFundMe online fundraiser‘s goal was $100,000, and had raised over $101,000 as of 5 p.m. Monday.

Varian said funds will be split evenly between the families of the fishermen. She hopes it’s placed in trust funds “so the kids who lost their dads can go to college someday.”

Friends and family members of the four fishermen gather for a candlelight vigil on the Maine State Pier, one of the two vigils held on Portland’s waterfront Wednesday night. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

She said the fundraiser’s success exemplifies how the fishing and lobstering community come together in difficult times.

“Tragedies like this break every single person’s heart,” she said. “I don’t think those brave men will ever be forgotten.”

While it’s unknown what happened to the Emmy Rose, incidents such as capsizing and unintentional falls overboard were leading causes of commercial fishing fatalities from 2010 to 2014, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Vessel disasters and falls overboard each accounted for 37% of all deaths during that 4-year period.

“There’s an underlying knowledge that any time you hop on a boat, you’re taking a risk,” said Ben Martens, Maine Fishermen’s Association executive director. “Tragedies like these force people within the fishing community to face that risk. Every single fisherman has had a close call out on the ocean. When tragedy does strike, think about all those times when it could’ve been you.”

Martens said the Maine Fishermen’s Association encourages fishermen and lobstermen to reach out for help if they need it while grieving.

“As with any tragedy that touches a community, people deal with it in different ways,” he said. “It can be hard to express fear and anxiety around a thing you’ve been doing for years. There are times when an individual needs help and the community recognizes that.”

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