BOSTON – The single rescued crew member of a capsized fishing boat spoke with Coast Guard (search) officials early Wednesday for the first time about his harrowing experience in the frigid December waters.
So far, Pedro Furtado (search) is the only one of six on board the Northern Edge saved after it foundered and sank Monday afternoon off Nantucket (search). He managed to grab on to a life raft and was picked up by a nearby fishing vessel, the Diane Marie, that spotted a flare through wind and snow.
Furtado stayed aboard the Diane Marie until it arrived before dawn Wednesday in New Bedford, where he was interviewed by Coast Guard officials. He appeared to be in good health, according to Tony Alvernaz, captain of the Diane Marie.
Alvernaz said Furtado had endured about a half hour in the 47-degree water, some of the time without a shirt.
Furtado was tossed from his lifeboat two or three times by the waves but managed to climb back aboard the life raft each time before crew members of the Diane Marie saved him, Alvernaz said.
"I'm in awe over this man," Alvernaz said. "He was fine."
Early Wednesday, a single cutter continued the search for the other men — Ray Richards, Glen Crowley, Juan Flores, Eric Guillen and Carlos Lopes. Two aircraft were to join the cutter later in the morning, Coast Guard Lt. Melanie Burnham said. She did not say how long the search would continue.
Capt. Jim McPerson, commanding officer of one of the search vessels, the Escanaba, said search conditions were excellent Tuesday night, a stark contrast to Monday, when whipping snow, 35-knot winds, ice-covered decks, and swells made the search perilous. About 150 people helped scour 1,500 square miles across an area about 45 miles southeast of Nantucket.
McPerson said the search had become "desperate" in the more than 24 hours since the fishermen vanished, but he and the rest of the searchers were still hopeful that they might be found.
"The reason we're still searching is that the survivor never saw what happened to the other crew members. He doesn't know if the vessel rolled completely over, or they were able to get their gear or not, so we need to be absolutely sure that we have searched the areas completely," he said.
The six crew members of the 75-foot Northern Edge were in the Nantucket Lightship area, a restricted area that was opened to scallopers early last month. Fishermen are allowed one trip into the area through January, and can catch up to 18,000 pounds over 12 days.
Waves broadsided the boat as it was pulling in its scallop dredge. It sent an emergency distress signal first, and a radio mayday followed. Alvernaz said his first mate noticed he could no longer see the Northern Edge, which had been fishing nearby. Alvernaz spotted a rescue flare soon afterward and began steaming toward the wreck.