Coast Guard suspends search for missing fishermen

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 2:15pm
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After more than 40 hours of intensive search over an area covering 2,152 nautical miles, the Coast Guard suspended its search for two Rhode Island fishermen who went missing after their vessel capsized about two-and-a-half miles southeast of Block Island.

The search began immediately after the captain of the fishing vessel Mistress, home-ported out of Pt. Judith, notified the Coast Guard at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 1, that the vessel was taking on water. After the Coast Guard sent out an urgent request for assistance, a nearby fishing vessel, the Captain Bligh, was able to rescue one of the Mistress crew members, while the other two remained missing by the time the search was called off on Tuesday at 5:13 p.m.

Various news outlets have identified the two missing crew members as boat owner Oscar Diaz and his nephew John Ansay. The Captain Bligh rescued Tim Diaz, who has been identified in news reports as Oscar Diaz’s son.

The trouble began at around 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 1: “The captain of the fishing vessel Mistress notified watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England at around 1:30 a.m. that the boat was taking on water. The watchstanders issued an urgent marine information broadcast to vessels in the area to request assistance for the crew of the MistressThe fishing boat Captain Bligh responded and rescued one crew member from a life boat. The remaining two crew members have not been located. Low visibility and poor weather conditions hampered initial searches, but multiple crews launched as visibility improved,” the press release stated.

At the time the search was started, the Coast Guard reported that winds were “30 to 35 knots and the seas 10 feet.”

The Coast Guard issued a statement that the following crews were involved in the search:

- Coast Guard Cutter Sanibel
- Coast Guard Cutter Steelhead
- Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba
- An Air Station Cape Cod MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft
- A 45-foot response boat from Station Point Judith
- A 47-foot Motor Lifeboat from Station Menemsha

Block Island Times columnist Joe Houlihan, who works for Interstate Navigation and lives in Narragansett, said he visited the Pt. Judith Lighthouse, which had a heavy media presence, on the night of Wednesday, Jan. 2. “I was... scoping my binoculars looking south at search and rescue boats. Just as I was leaving a news woman was being filmed. Sadly, they had just announced they were calling off the search and were reporting it for the 6 p.m. news. On the way home, I stopped by Camp Cronin and parked next to a memorial of lost fisherman from Galilee's fleet. I thought there would be now two more names added to the granite memorial.”