Families of the Crew of Lost Trawler Emmy Rose Split $1M Settlement

Emmy Rose
Courtesy NTSB

Published Jan 9, 2022 10:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

The families of the four fishermen who lost their lives when the trawler Emmy Rose disappeared off Massachusetts have received an award for damages totaling nearly $1 million, which will be divided among them. 

In a ruling issued last week, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock distributed an insurance payment of about $960,000 to the deceased's next of kin, allocating money to provide support for dependent minors and other family members. All families received an additional payment for pain and suffering. 

"Each man died an unspeakably tragic and terrible death, each likely aware of his impending death while struggling to survive in a dark, cold and angry ocean," wrote Woodcock. "Other than the inescapable inference that each man drowned, there is no direct evidence as to how he drowned . . . Thus, there is no basis for the court to find that one man outlived another or that one man died more or less painfully than another."

The award brings the family's lawsuit to a close, but it yields few additional insights into the cause of the vessel's loss. The vessel went down in rough weather off the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the early hours of November 23, 2020, leaving no clues. 

At about 0100 that morning, the U.S. Coast Guard command center in Boston received a signal from the Emmy Rose's EPIRB. The center immediately launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from the Coast Guard Air Station on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The aircrew arrived on scene within the hour and discovered debris and an empty life raft, but no sign of the vessel's crew. 

The Coast Guard continued a search with air and surface units for another three days, without success. The effort was called off after the search team covered 2,000 square miles over the span of 38 hours. 

The four missing crewmembers were identifed as Jeff Matthews, Ethan Ward, Michael Porpa, and Captain Robert Blethen. All four were experienced fishermen, and their loss was mourned in Maine's tight-knit fishing community. 

The USCG and NTSB have launched an investigation into the vessel's disappearance. In May 2021, working with sonar company MIND Technology and other partners, the investigators found the Emmy Rose with side-scan sonar. The 82-foot vessel was located in an upright position with its outriggers deployed in about 800 feet of water, about 25 miles off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts.

In September 2021, investigators partnered with the National Science Foundation and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to survey the sunken vessel using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) aboard the Coast Guard cutter Sycamore. The survey yielded new videos and high-resolution photos that will be used to help determine the cause of the sinking.