The firm that owns a fishing vessel that sank early Wednesday miles off Mount Desert Island is being sued by the widow of a Westbrook man who died in 2013 after he fell overboard from the vessel during a fishing trip, according to federal court documents.
Marcia J. Gorham of Westbrook filed suit against the firm that owns the vessel, Lydia & Maya Inc., in May 2015, according to information posted online in the U.S. District Court document database. In the complaint, Gorham alleges that her husband, Martin J. Gorham, died as a result of “the carelessness, negligence and recklessness” of the owners of the Lydia & Maya fishing vessel, which she claims was unseaworthy at the time of her husband’s death off Cape Ann, Massachusetts, on Dec. 19, 2013.
In addition to his wife, Martin Gorham, 47, was survived by a teenage daughter and two stepsons, according to his obituary.
Marcia Gorham seeks a jury trial, unspecified full damages for suffering, distress and loss of pecuniary support, and unspecified punitive damages, according to the complaint.
The document also requests that the 71-foot vessel be seized, along with all associated gear and licenses, and then sold “so as to satisfy the maritime liens of [Gorham] and any judgment of this court.”
Martin Gorham’s mother, Barbara A. Foster, told the Boston Herald in December 2013 that her son had been working on the deck of the Lydia and Maya at around noon when he fell overboard in rough seas without a life jacket.
She said a crewmate jumped into the water to try to save her son, but couldn’t reach him and that heavy clothes and boots likely dragged her son under.
In a motion seeking to have the case dismissed, Camden attorney William Welte, who represents the boat’s owner, indicated that Martin Gorham was seen going over the side of the boat on a piece of equipment that was being deployed as the boat was setting out its net for a haul. Christopher Odlin, the boat’s captain, “immediately alerted the crew and initiated man overboard procedures,” Welte wrote in the document. Despite the crew’s attempts to reach Gorham and pull him from the water, Welte added, “Gorham disappeared beneath the surface and could not be saved.
The judge presiding over the case, D. Brock Hornby, has yet to rule on the boat owner’s motion, according to the document database.
Separate attempts Thursday to contact Marcia Gorham’s attorney, Michael Savasuk of Portland, and Welte were unsuccessful.
The Coast Guard indicated Wednesday in a prepared statement that they received a broken transmission around midnight Tuesday from the crew of the Boston-based vessel that indicated the boat was taking on water. A short time later, Coast Guard watchstanders received an alert notifying them the crew was in the water.
Around 2 a.m., a Coast Guard helicopter from Cape Cod reached the location broadcast by the distress signal, about 40 miles south of Southwest Harbor, and found the four crew members in a life raft, shooting flares and using a signal light.
The four fishermen were loaded onto the helicopter with the help of a rescue swimmer and then flown to Hancock County Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton to be checked out by emergency medical personnel according to Wednesday’s press release. The fishermen showed mild hypothermic conditions, the Coast Guard indicated.
“The condition of the fishing vessel is still under investigation,” Coast Guard officials wrote in the release.
Nicole Groll, public affairs specialist with the Coast Guard’s First District Office in Boston, said Thursday that the agency has located the vessel at a depth of about 500 feet in the Gulf of Maine roughly 40 miles south of Southwest Harbor, in the vicinity of where it was reported to be sinking Tuesday night.
She said the Coast Guard is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to monitor some fuel that is leaking from the sunken vessel, but that none of the fuel is expected to reach Maine’s coastline. Information about how much fuel is thought to be on the sunken boat was unavailable late Thursday afternoon, Groll said.
Whether an effort is made to salvage the boat is up to the owner, Groll said, but the owner has not contacted the Coast Guard. She said that given the location of the boat, no determination about was caused it to sink can be made unless the boat is recovered. The incident remains under investigation, she added.
In Wednesday’s statement, Chief Petty Officer Aaron Clendaniel credited the boat’s crew with helping rescuers find them quickly.
“The Lydia & Maya crew did a great job making sure their safety supplies were in good working condition, and that is what allowed us to find them so quickly,” he said.