NEW BEDFORD, MASS. (WHDH) - A fisherman who survived a shipwreck off Martha’s Vineyard spoke Tuesday from his hospital bed about the harrowing ordeal, one day after the United States Coast Guard suspended its search for three of his fellow crewmates.
Ernesto Garcia, 50, was aboard the Leonardo — a 56-foot scallop boat — that capsized and sank on Sunday afternoon as nine-foot swells and gusty winds battered the area. He was later rescued by a helicopter crew.
“We caught a rogue sea,” Garcia told 7’s Jonathan Hall. “A wave came across in the opposite direction in which the waves were running.”
Garcia says the boat was equipped with a device that automatically sends an emergency distress signal when it strikes the water but that three survival suits onboard sunk with the boat.
“We had no time. Half the port side of the boat was down in the water,” Garcia recalled. “We were past the point of no return.”
Crewmate Mark Cormier, 35, was with Garcia when the wave hit.
“The boat took a nice roll and flipped,” Garcia said. “He [Cormier] broke away from me and I ended up in some kind of air pocket.”
Garcia says he opened his eyes, swam toward the light at the surface of the water, and then saw Cormier pop up. The two then swam toward a life ring but Garcia believes Cormier swallowed too much seawater that was polluted with diesel fuel.
“When I looked back, he was face down in the water,” Garcia said. “When I tried to grab him, he slipped off the ring and started pulling away from me. By then I was so tired. I didn’t think I was going to make it to the life raft. I felt so bad seeing him.”
The boat’s 51-year-old captain, along with his 27-year-old son, are both likely 250 feet below the ocean in the wreck of the Leonardo, Garcia said.
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