Out of Gloucester


 

August 23, 1958

Gloucester Fish Spotter Dies
As Two Planes Collide
In Mid-Air Off Plymouth

A mid-air collision of two fish-spotting planes off Plymouth yesterday noon, claimed the lives of the two pilots and observer Capt. Michael A. "Kelly" Marino, 25, of Gloucester.  Marino, who was working with five Gloucester blueback seiners at the time of the accident is married and has one child.   The only body recovered up to noon today was that of Leonard Wezesa, 22 of Haverhill, pilot of one of the planes.

Missing and presumed dead by the U. S. Coast Guard, are Capt. Marino, who was skipper of the Gloucester dragger Columbia and pilot Harold Fogg, 40, of Newburyport, who flew his own Luscomb plane.  Both aircraft took off from Plum Island Airport.

Coast Guard searched the area off Gurnet Light, Plymouth for the bodies with both planes and ships throughout the afternoon and late into the evening, but to no avail.  The search was resumed at dawn today.  The two planes sank in about 50 feet of water.

Eye-witness to the triple fatality, Capt. Peter Frontiero, 43, of Gloucester, skipper of the Gloucester seiner Pilgrim, told how he was talking with Kelly on the walkie-talkie from the seine boat, and then suddenly noting he wasn't getting any answer, looked up.  Frontiero said he was horrified as he saw "the planes go BOOM!".  Minutes later, he picked up the "broken" body of pilot Wezesa, who was literally exploded from the wreckage.

The two planes were jointly hired by the Gloucester By-Products Inc. and their fleet of five seiners catching bluebacks and menhaden (pogies) for the local manufactory of fish meat products.  The hiring was done through Fogg, a veteran fish spotter and pilot who fishermen  say needs no observer, so skilled was he in operating his plane while at the same time peering beneath the ocean table for schools of fish.

Still  dazed by the shock of the tragedy was Capt. Frontiero at dockside last night as he was getting the Pilgrim ready at the State Fish Pier for the discharge of their 90,000 pounds of bluebacks that "Kelly got for us."

"I was talking in Kelly as he was circling around to the left and I was coming around on the right of a school." said Frontiero.   "I told him I could see the school good.  I thought he would answer.   There wasn't a sound so I looked up.  Then it happened.  I saw the planes go BOOM!  One of them, the silver plane was falling so fast that when he hit the water, the plane exploded.  That was Kelly's.  The other one, Harold's plane, came down slower.  We started out to help the plane that lost its wing in the crash, but we saw that the Saint Ann, another Gloucester seiner in command of owner Capt. Leo Favalora, was closer so we went over toward the other plane, Kelly's."

"That's when we picked up Wezesa and put him in the sine boat.  His arms were still moving an so were his lips as if he was trying to say something.  He was blown out of that plane.  He was all smashed up. We afterwards put him aboard the Lulu Mae, a 40-foot State patrol boat.  They got him to the dock in Plymouth where the police took charge.  We never saw Kelly again.  He was one of the good kids."

"Kelly never had an enemy," was the way lumper Vito Asaro expressed it as he waited to go below to work on the catch "that Kelly got."

Capt. Palazola, 44, uncle of Kelly, was visibly affected at his home last night as he told the story of what he saw in that few minutes of tragedy.  Palazola was aboard the Pilgrim.  "I wish to God I never saw it!" he exclaimed.  "Well, this plane of Harold Fogg's was circling around us.  Our seine boat was on a school of fish.  The way I see it, I thought his wing fell off.  I was about a mile off.   We got walkie-talkies and suddenly I heard Peter (Frontiero) holler that two planes had hit and fell in the water.

"Our boat steamed for Fogg's plane and the seine boat was only 15 foot away when the plane sunk.  Then she steamed about 300 feet to get to the other plane and when she got there they saw the body floating.  The man was still moving his hands.  His lips were moving.

"We called WOU, emergency to talk, to Eddie MacLeod (manager at Gloucester By-Products, Inc.) and also the Coast Guard at the same time to get plenty of help.  And in not time, planes and boats were all over the place."

The Coast Guard air station, Winter Island, Salem, dispatched a helicopter and plane to the scene.  Coast Guard boats from Scituate and Cape Cod Canal Stations as well as the cutter General Greene out of Provincetown joined in the rescue attempt.

Capt. Palazola said the Pilgrim had 60,000 pounds of bluebacks at the time of the tragedy. "Kelly set us onto these fish," he said.  "We were able to cut off one corner of that big school about 10 that morning.  Then his plane had to go into Marshfield for engine trouble.  I heard him say 'We blew a gasket on the head of the engine.'   He was out again about 11.  The they had to go in for the second time for something.  Last I called him was about 15 minutes before the collision but I didn't get any answer."

The veteran Gloucester seining fishermen said, "we pay the planes $12 an hour to spot the fish for us.  They fly anywhere from 500 to 1,200 feet up.   They talk to the seiner and the seine boat and tell you how to set the seine and where to go.  They'll holler to go either right or left.  They don't say port or starboard.  If it weren't for these planes, there wouldn't be any fish caught because the fish are so deep this year and we couldn't see them from the masthead.

"Kelly was captain of the Columbia last winter.  Then he went aboard the Puritan this summer.   We had always had one plane to spot for us.  But there's five of us boats now and we decided we needed two planes.  The fleet is the Puritan, Pilgrim, Rosie and Grace, Rose Marie and Hazel B.  So the company agreed with us and we got the two.  Kelly wanted to be an observer.  He was learning the spotting part of it.

"That Fogg was one of the best in the business because he knew how to fly and spot the fish at the same time.  He was on the west coast during winter spotting sardine schools."

Down the Fort, along the west end of Main Street, tight-lipped knots of fishermen gathered and talked about what happened to Kelly, what a "real guy" he was, how much it had meant to everyone of them to have known him.   You got the feeling that you, too, almost knew the man, so proudly did they speak of him, of his prowess at sea, his friendliness and warmth ashore.

You too felt more deeply then the sympathy for his grieving widow, Mrs. Frances (Palazola) Marino, who was at her home where relatives and close friends tried in vain to comfort her.  With her was their two year-old son, Anthony.   They had had one other son, Michael Jr., who died as a child.   Friends recalled that Michael's father, Anthony Marino was lost at sea off Boston from a small trawler during the 1938 hurricane.  Michael himself was born in Boston.

Wezesa was a graduate of Haverhill Trade School.  He is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Stanley W. Wezesa; a brother, John and two sisters, Mrs. Joseph E. Dollen and Mrs. Lester Mullen, all of Haverhill.

Fogg leaves his wife, Kathleen and two sons, Norbert, 6, and Harold III, 9.  The plane that Wezesa was flying is owned by Roy Auclair, who is a flying instructor at the Plum Island Airport.  Auclair took a flight with them earlier in the morning.

[Michael Marino's name was read, along with others, at the annual service for fishermen who died at sea, in August 1959.]

 

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