The wreckage of the Emmy Rose, a Portland-based fishing vessel that sank last fall, has been located off the coast of Massachusetts.

Four fishermen aboard the vessel died when it sank early on Nov. 23 roughly 22 miles northeast of Provincetown, Massachusetts, where 30-knot winds were whipping up 6- to 8-foot waves. The vessel had been near the end of a multiday trip to catch haddock and other groundfish and was carrying its catch to Gloucester, Massachusetts.

The deaths of captain Robert Blethen Jr. of Georgetown and crew Jeffrey Matthews of Portland, Ethan Ward of Pownal and Michael Porper of Gloucester, Massachusetts, stunned the Maine fishing community, which gathered for vigils on Portland’s fishing wharves and raised money to help their families. The captain and crew were described by loved ones as men who worked hard, loved their families and felt a deep connection to the sea.

A candlelight vigil was held on the Maine State Pier in November for four missing fisherman from the Portland-based Emmy Rose. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The Emmy Rose was found on the afternoon of May 19 using side scan sonar by Klein Marine Systems, a Salem, New Hampshire-based company that announced the discovery Monday. The company worked closely with the Coast Guard, National Transportation Safety Board and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to locate the vessel, it said.

Side scan sonar operations were conducted from NOAA’s Auk, a vessel used primarily for research at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The Emmy Rose was located northeast of Provincetown after the search covered approximately 5.5 square miles of seafloor. It was found on the fourth survey line conducted by the team, according to Klein Marine Systems.

A Coast Guard spokesman said Monday that additional information, including the exact location of the Emmy Rose, cannot be released because an investigation into the incident is ongoing. It was not clear Monday if the investigation will include examining the wreck.

Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the NTSB, said the agency is working closely with the Coast Guard to collect factual evidence and will do an analysis of the probable cause of the sinking. The NTSB is involved in the investigation because the incident involved a major marine casualty and the agency currently is focusing on fishing vessel safety, he said.

A formal announcement was made to the crew’s families after the boat was found, according to Klein Marine Systems. The crew of the Auk performed a memorial tribute at sea for the four lost crew members.

“Our commitment to our coastal communities does not stop at the sanctuary’s boundaries,” Pete DeCola, superintendent of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, said in a statement. “The Emmy Rose, was homeported in Portland, Maine, a sanctuary coastal community, and it’s loss was deeply felt across the region. We are humbled to have supported the search for the ship, along with our partner, Mind Technology (Klein), and hope that its discovery will bring some measure of closure to the families of those who perished.”

Earlier this year, the owner of the Emmy Rose asked the federal district court in Maine to declare that the sinking and deaths were not caused by any defect on the vessel or any action or inaction on the part of the owners, so they should not be liable for damages.

The owners kept the Emmy Rose “seaworthy, tight, staunch, strong and fit,” according to the court filing.

Representatives of the four victims have sued the vessel’s owner, Boat Aaron & Melissa Inc, for damages under a federal maritime law known as the Jones Act. The parties have tentatively agreed to a settlement offer from the owner, according to court documents, but it has not been finalized.

The Emmy Rose left Portland on Nov. 18, 2020. According to the filing by the boat’s owner, there were no indications of any problems on the trip and the crew indicated on Nov. 22 that the boat was heading to Gloucester. But at about 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 23, the vessel’s emergency beacon activated when the boat was about 22 miles northeast of Provincetown.

Emergency beacons send an automated signal when a vessel capsizes or sinks. There was no distress call on the radio, indicating the crew had no time to react to the emergency.

The Coast Guard used vessels and aircraft to search for the boat for 38 continuous hours over an area of approximately 2,066 square miles, but found only debris and an empty life raft. The Coast Guard ultimately called off its search and said the crew was lost and presumed dead.

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