2 Dead, 3 Rescued at Sea
Two Gloucester fishermen were lost at sea
Friday night after the 83-foot dragger Sea Breeze sank off the
coast of Maine. Dead are LeRoy Amero, 69, of 13 1/2 Cleveland St.
and Forrest Dare, 36, of 8 Fair St.
The skipper of the vessel, Wilton
Mansfield, 62, of 18 School St., survived along with his 16-year-old stepson, Victor
Simpson, and Russel Sherman, 29, of Rockport. Mansfield
and Simpson were rescued from a life raft in 10- to 15-foot seas two
hours after the sinking. Sherman was picked up early Saturday
morning after being spotted clinging to an aluminum skiff.
Dare was found dead in the
vessel's life raft late Saturday morning. Amero, who Sherman
saw sink away from the skiff Friday night, has not been found. Yesterday, Mansfield
lay in bed at his home and recounted the totals of an ordeal that began late Friday
"We'd taken on some water forward,"
he said. "The drain pipes must have gotten plugged." Unable to clear
the pipes and fearing the already-high seas would worsen, Mansfield made
radio contact with the Southwest Harbor, Maine, Coast Guard station.
"We asked for a pump," he
said. "They asked if we were in any immediate danger and I said no --
negative -- but we were pulling in." The position at the time was about 25
miles southwest of Mount Desert Rock, approximately 50 miles from the Coast Guard Station
near Bar Harbor. Mansfield then remembered an electric portable
pump he had recently purchased and had installed in the engine room.
"We moved it without too much trouble and
hooked it up and it worked perfect," he said. Quickly, the water was cleared
and the Coast Guard was alerted that there would be no need for the pump. But the
vessel continued on toward Southwest Harbor.
"A storm was supposed to be coming and we
were going in to find a lee behind Baker Island to sit it out," Mansfield
said. "Then it hit. Approximately a quarter of 7." he said.
"I heard a hard thump and a second or two later there was another thump right near
the stern. I still don't know what it was."
Scrambling down to the engine room to see what
had happened, Mansfield found nothing but water. "In the few
short seconds it took to get there, the engine was half covered." Up the ladder
and into the house again, Mansfield called the Coast Guard.
"We're going to need help and need it quick," he remembers saying.
"Damn quick." There was no time for more messages. There
wouldn't have been time to even take an accurate position, he said. He said he was lucky
to have taken a reading earlier. He knew they were now approximately 10 miles
farther along. He gave the Coast Guard the estimated position and abandoned ship.
The skipper, his stepson and Dare went into
the self-inflating life raft. "We didn't even have time to pull all stops to
fill it," he said. "We gave a kick and got overboard. She was
going quickly." Amero and Sherman untied the
aluminum skiff from atop the wheelhouse and put out, too. "Five minutes -- no
more -- and she was gone." The 83-foot, 89-ton dragger was gone, sunk into the dark
sea. The five men in the raft and skiff began to drift helplessly in the 10- to
"We were upside down in ours," Mansfield
said. "We were sitting on the canopy. It was wet and cold and all we
could do was wait." Sherman and Amero, meanwhile,
were struggling to keep the small skiff upright. "Everyone was soaked and it
was cold. But all we could do is wait," he said. An hour passed, the seas
abated somewhat and the men in the life raft waited. The skiff was no longer in
sight. Suddenly, at approximately 9 p.m., the lights of a helicopter appeared in the
"We flashed a flashlight, they signaled
and then dropped a flare right near us," he said. The rescue basket was lowered
toward the raft and Mansfield and Simpson tried to rouse
Dare, who was delirious and would not move. "C'mon
Forrest," Mansfield recalls urging. "We're
saved." "I can't move. I'm freezing to death," he said.
"We tried but we couldn't move him," he said.
Young Simpson then
entered the basked which was not hauled up immediately, causing the boy to be dunked
several times in the rising waters and forcing him out of the basked back into the raft.
The Coast Guardsmen above tried repeatedly to get the basket down to the raft in
still-strong winds, but they couldn't do it. "Then they tried a rope with
weights on the end, but I never could get my hands on it," he said. "Then
they tried the basket again." Mansfield went first this time,
and was lifted to the safety of the helicopter.
"We tried to get Forrest in," he
said. "But he just said, 'I can't move,' and we couldn't move him the way the
seas were and how we were flopping around." Simpson followed
his stepfather up to the helicopter and Mansfield hastily asked,
"How's Forrest doing?" "Forrest's gone," the boy said, adding
that he had fallen out of the raft and disappeared into the sea.
The helicopter then descended almost to the
surface in hopes of finding Dare. "We were close, real
close," Mansfield said. "I felt one sea hit the
helicopter." A Coast Guardsman stood ready with a lifeline tied around his
waist to leap in after Dare, but Dare could not be
spotted and the helicopter sped towards the Brunswick Naval Air Station. There Mansfield
and Simpson were transferred to an ambulance and take to Brunswick
Hospital for observation. "They said they were going right back out to look
again for the boys," Mansfield said. "They kept us overnight. We
were okay and they let us go Saturday after lunch."
The search for the other crewmen continued
through the night without success and continued into the morning.
At 7:50 a.m., the Coast Guard cutter Duane
recovered the life raft and soon after found the skiff, where a groggy, wet but otherwise
healthy Sherman had endured the night. "Russell told me that
Amero didn't last half an hour," said Mansfield. He also informed the skipper
that big waves had swamped and overturned the skiff five to six times during the night,
but he had somehow managed to right it each time. He, too, was taken to Brunswick
Hospital for treatment and was released yesterday. Around 11:20, Dare's
body was found afloat about five miles from the spot where the Sea Breeze
sank, and the search for Amero continued through yesterday before being
abandoned last night.
The ill-fated trip began Wednesday and was
scheduled to continue through the weekend. The vessel was built in Thomaston, Maine,
in 1936 and was named the Whaling City, once the pride of New
Bedford, before Mansfield purchased it. "She was a good
boat," Mansfield said. "She just struck something and
opened up," he added. "She'd carry 90,000 and we had hardly 40,000 aboard,
mostly redfish," he said. "Its over now. There's nothing that can
Looking back in the incident, Mansfield
said, "While floating in the raft, I never thought that any of us would make
it. I asked myself how could they possibly rescue us out here under these
conditions? I didn't plan on being here." He added, "That's some
great organization, that Coast Guard."