Agencies scale back search for fisherman

Posted March 27, 2009, at 9:12 p.m.

LUBEC, Maine — The Coast Guard suspended its search Friday for Logan Preston, one of two people aboard the fishing vessel All American, which went down Wednesday near Leighton Point in Pembroke.

The Maine Marine Patrol also announced Friday afternoon that it had scaled back its search for the missing man from several boats and aircraft to a plane and one officer on site today.

The body of the second fisherman, 53-year-old Loren Lank of Lubec, was found Wednesday in a debris field where the boat was last seen.

Lank apparently was piloting the boat owned by Roger Preston of Roque Bluffs, the father of Logan Preston.

Lank and Logan Preston had been dragging for urchins in the area.

Just after sunrise Friday, mussel and wrinkle fishermen quietly placed their gear on board their boats in anticipation of another day on the water. Nearby Marine Patrol and members of the Maine State Police dive team readied themselves for day three of the search. There was an eerie quiet to the day. The only sound was the rumble of boat engines as the fishermen and search teams left the Lubec marina.

For days now the teams have searched from Reversing Falls in Pembroke to Comstock Point in North Lubec, a distance of about one mile.

“The fact that the tides are so strong here — that has been the challenge, because it has increased the size of our debris field, exponentially,” Sgt. Jay Carroll of the Marine Patrol said Friday.

Some of the debris collected was on a small floating dock near the marina Friday and included a fish finder believed to be from the vessel, along with blue and white sections of what looked like the roof of the wheelhouse.

While searchers scoured the bay, Preston family member Hal Bean of Orrington along with his son Chad and brother Nason searched the shore. Hal Bean said his sister Lisa and Preston’s father have been together for years.

They began their search for the young fisherman Thursday. “We did find some debris and stuff, several good-sized pieces,” Hal Bean said Friday.

Bean spoke affectionately of Logan Preston. “He was a good boy,” he said. “A very hard worker just like his dad.”

Chad Bean said Preston left behind a girlfriend. “He was a good man, a good fisherman,” he said.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Marine Patrol began searching for Preston on Wednesday afternoon, soon after they received a call from the fishing vessel Perfect Choice that they had seen a debris field in Johnson Bay that contained a survival suit and what appeared to be a submerged boat.

The Perfect Choice crew included Lank’s stepson Clifton Flynn. The crew found Lank’s body floating among the debris, secured him to the boat, and waited for Marine Patrol to take him ashore.

The search for Preston continued through Wednesday night. On Thursday, the Coast Guard, Marine Patrol officers along with the Maine State Police dive team continued to search.

Around 11 a.m. Friday, Jim Malcolm, officer in charge of U.S. Coast Guard Station Eastport, said the Coast Guard had suspended its search pending any new developments.

It was a troublesome search.

“What makes it difficult is you are not looking for a stationary target, you are looking for a moving target,” Malcolm said. “Because of the extreme tidal ranges in Cobscook Bay and surrounding bays anywhere from 18 to 23 feet, not only is the water moving up and down, but that means the water is constantly flooding in and ebbing out. It means it is always moving.”

No one knows why the vessel sank.

Lank’s stepson speculated Thursday that the drag may have gotten caught, tipping the boat over.

Carroll said Friday that no one knows for sure what happened. “We could have gotten a lot of answers if we’d found the main part of the boat,” he said. “Obviously something catastrophic happened. Just the devastation to the vessel itself makes that fairly apparent.”

One thing is certain: The vessel went down fast. There was no mayday call. “The first report was a radio call to us by the Perfect Choice that ‘we found a debris field.’ That was approximately 10 minutes after 4 [p.m. Wednesday],” Malcolm said.

The search crews were subdued Friday.

“Unfortunately our search efforts did not lead to rescue and recovery, and for maritime guardians, like the Coast Guard, that is frustrating,” Capt. James McPherson, commander of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England, said in a prepared release. “Our sincere condolences go out to these two families, who share a long history of fishing, for their sad losses.”

“As we continue to search, we would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the Preston family and to the family of Mr. Loren Lank of Lubec, who was recovered on Wednesday afternoon,” Carroll added in a Marine Patrol press release.

Coast Guard and Maine Marine Patrol crews logged 1,488 miles during the search for Preston.

“The extreme cold water temperature of 37 degrees and 4 knots of tidal currents created difficult obstacles, but we are extremely grateful to our maritime partners, particularly the Maine Marine Patrol and Maine State Police divers, who performed superbly under these conditions,” McPherson added.

The missing boat, a 34-foot blue-and-white fiberglass dragger, was last seen around 3 p.m. Wednesday dragging for sea urchins between Leighton Point in Pembroke and Red Island.

About 4:10 p.m., the crew of Perfect Choice reported they had come across a debris field in Johnson Bay. Coast Guard Sector Northern New England launched a 25-foot boat from Coast Guard Station Eastport and issued an urgent marine information broadcast asking boaters in the area to help with the search, according to a press release issued by the Coast Guard.

The Maine Marine Patrol recovered Lank’s body near the debris field at 5:15 p.m. in Johnson Bay. His body was taken to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Augusta.

bdncalais@myfairpoint.net

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