Storm rips apart commercial fishing boat off Maryland’s coast

March 8, 2013

When the storm swept across the Washington region on Wednesday, many stayed home, but one man struggled for his life in the Atlantic Ocean off Maryland after waves ripped apart his commercial fishing boat.

“It was about over for me,” Patrick Small, 34, of Beaufort County, N.C. , said of the moments before a Coast Guard helicopter winched him up to safety from the Atlantic Ocean off Assateague Island.

The Coast Guard said Thursday that it had suspended the search about 15 miles east of the island for two other men who had been on the wrecked 67-foot vessel called Seafarer. Searchers on Wednesday encountered rain and 50- to 60-mph winds after receiving Seafarer’s emergency alert about 10:40 a.m., the Coast Guard said.

Seafarer, which was fishing for flounder, had apparently lost steering capability earlier, Small said in an interview. Then, as the storm gained strength, things deteriorated.

“It got rough real quick,” Small said. A wave picked up the vessel and dropped it on its side. “It was nobody’s fault,” he said. “We caught a rogue wave.”

As the cabin burst, Small was washed out and into the cold Atlantic. He clung to a piece of debris, then to a box for storing fish, before finally finding a raft.

He tried to get back to the wreckage of the Seafarer, where, he said, he “searched for my buddies,” but to no avail.

After several hours, rescuers arrived. “They were awesome,” he said. He asked prayers for the families of those who were lost.

After fishing since the age of 14, he said, he was uncertain about returning to the sea. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet.”

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