PEMBROKE, Maine — The Maine Marine Patrol has turned over two separate sets of human remains recovered from the waters of Cobscook Bay to the State Medical Examiner’s Office for identification.
One set was recovered in December 2010, and another set of remains was found last week, both by crews on local scallop draggers, according to Marine Patrol Lt. Dale Sprowl.
Dr. David King, state medical examiner, confirmed Wednesday that partial remains are being examined at his office, but that nothing has been positively identified yet.
Five fishermen have drowned in Cobscook Bay since March 2009. One body has not been recovered and two bodies have been recovered intact. Two other bodies have been recovered but not whole, King said.
“When you have 206 bones in the human body and three fishermen, that complicates everything,” King said, referring to the identification process. “In all fairness, what we are dealing with are numerous small bone fragments.”
He said that all of the fishermen’s families have provided DNA samples for testing but that some of the families do not want to know if any of the newly found remains belong to their loved one. Others do. King also said there’s always a chance that the bones under review might not be those of the lost Maine fishermen.
King said that since the drownings were accidental events and not crimes, such as homicide, there is no urgency in testing the remains. He said positive identifications should be made by late February.
Working last week with new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency charts and the Maine State Police Dive Team, the Maritime Patrol officers also discovered the location of the Miss Priss, a fishing vessel that sank near Reversing Falls one year ago this month.
The crew of three on the Miss Priss were rescued at the time of the sinking. Those rescued were the boat’s pilot, William Feltner Jr., and his two sternmen, Carl Sizemore and Evan Matthews. All three are from Lubec.
The men were picked up by the crew of the Nasty Too, which also was fishing nearby at Reversing Falls.
The area, which has treacherous tides and currents, is where three fishing vessels sank during a nine-month period in 2009. All five men on board the other boats were lost at sea.
In March 2009, the fishing vessel All American sank in the same area of Cobscook Bay, killing Loren Lank, 53, of Lubec and sternman Logan Preston, 19, of Roque Bluffs. Lank’s body was discovered almost immediately after the sinking and Preston’s remains were recovered and identified in January 2010.
In October 2009, the fishing vessel Bottom Basher sank with three men on board — boat owner Joseph Jones, 29, of Trescott, Daryl Cline, 41, of Machiasport and Norman Johnson, 57, of Cutler. Searchers found the body of Cline the day after the sinking and recovered the remains of Johnson in December 2009. Jones’ body has not been recovered, nor has his boat, the Bottom Basher.
Capt. Robert Peacock, a maritime pilot who lobbied to bring NOAA to the bay after the spate of sinkings, said Tuesday that NOAA’s survey was completed earlier this fall but that complicated processes were required to mesh the actual surveys of depth and contours with tide readings.
When those results were available late in 2010, NOAA surveyors noticed an object on the bottom near Reversing Falls that they felt might be a boat.
Peacock said a camera was used in the area in December but the water was so muddy from heavy rains that nothing could be seen.
Last week, the spot was revisited and a boat could clearly be seen through the camera. “It had an aqua blue hull,” Peacock said.
The Maine State Police Dive Team visited Cobscook Bay last week and identified the boat as the Miss Priss. The survey did not turn up any evidence of the Bottom Basher.
Sprowl of the Marine Patrol said that there was a tiny window of time for the dive team to work because of treacherous currents and tides in the area. He said only two of the six divers in the water were able to reach the wreck.
“That’s got to be one of the worst locations on the East Coast,” Peacock said.
Sprowl said any efforts to raise the Miss Priss would now be a private venture.
Correction: This article's headline has been updated to correct who found the remains. Both sets were found by local scallop draggers, not divers.