ASSATEAGUE — The Coast Guard late Thursday afternoon suspended the search for two men missing from a disabled fishing vessel 15 miles off the coast of Assateague after rescuing via helicopter a third man who was found in a life boat during the storm on Wednesday.
Around 10:40 a.m. on Wednesday, Coast Guard Fifth District watchstanders received an emergency position indicating radio beacon, or EPIRB, from the 67-foot fishing vessel “Seafarer” reporting a position about 15 miles off the coast of Assateague Island. The Coast Guard contacted the vessel’s owner, who believed the “Seafarer” had become disabled and the vessel’s sister ship, the “Captain Alex,” started towing the “Seafarer.”
However, the “Captain Alex” lost its connection with the boat. According to reports, the two missing men were in the vessel’s pilot house when a large wave swept the pilot house from the deck of the boat.
Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City launched a Jayhawk helicopter and crew to report to the last reported position of the “Seafarer”. Upon arrival on the scene, the Coast Guard Air Crew recovered one man, identified as Patrick Small, of New Bern, N.C., from a small life raft and took him to PRMC.
Meanwhile, the search continued for two other men who were aboard the “Seafarer.” The Coast Guard deployed a 47-foot motor life boat from Station Chincoteague to search the area. Late Wednesday night, the Coast Guard temporarily suspended the search, citing low visibility l and on-scene winds topping out at 60 mph.
The search resumed around sunrise on Thursday with a second Jayhawk helicopter deployed along with the 47-foot motor life boat. The search continued through much of the morning hours and into Thursday afternoon before being suspended around 1 p.m. pending further developments. Still missing as of late Thursday was the vessel’s captain Walter Tate, Sr. of New Bern, N.C. and his nephew, Steve Tate, 60, also of New Bern.
“We want to extend our most sincere condolences to the families of the missing crewmembers,” said Thomas Botzenhart, a search and rescue controller at the 5th Coast Guard District command center. “We have expended multiple Coast Guard assets to search for their loved ones. We have searched over 560 square nautical miles of the Atlantic Ocean off the eastern shore of Virginia in an effort to locate and rescue their family members. It is with a great deal of sorrow that we have been unable to locate them at this point of time.”