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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Affidavit Spells Out Shipping Disaster

WASHINGTON — It was after midnight when fishing boat captain Joseph Marcantonio was awakened by a crewman's shouts. He says he raced to the wheelhouse in time to see a large tanker bearing down.

Marcantonio ordered James Sanfilippo to wake up the other two crewmen so they could put on survival suits. Almost immediately, the tanker slammed into the Starbound, blowing in the wheelhouse door and sending the captain down a set of steps. Water rushed in.

Within minutes, the fishing vessel was at the bottom of the Atlantic and all three of Marcantonio's crew were lost.

The tanker, the M.T. Virgo of the Primorsk Shipping Co., continued on its way, never stopping to try to help despite repeated requests from the U.S. Coast Guard, according to a criminal complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court.

The affidavit by John Cornett, a Coast Guard investigator, was filed to support charges against the three-man Virgo crew.

The Starbound, a 25-meter trawler based in Rockland, Maine, was about 210 kilometers off the Massachusetts coast on Aug. 5 when it encountered the Virgo, a 165-meter Cypriot-flagged tanker with a Russian crew. The tanker was bound from Boston to Come By Chance, Newfoundland, to pick up a load of gasoline.

After the collision, Marcantonio tried to get his survival suit, but it became entangled. As the Starbound sank, Marcantonio managed to swim to the surface, where he got into a life raft.

He called for his three crewmen but got no replies. Alone in the lifeboat, and with the Starbound's emergency beacon automatically deployed, Marcantonio waited for rescue.

The Virgo continued on its way, according to Cornett's affidavit.

The Coast Guard in Boston became aware of the Starbound's emergency beacon and tried to identify ships in the area that could help. A map showed that the Virgo was closest, but the vessel's crew did not respond to a special marine information broadcast, nor to attempts to reach them by radio or satellite telephone, the affidavit said.

The Virgo was stopped Aug. 7 by Canadian authorities after the Coast Guard asked them to check all ships arriving in port that may have been near the collision area. The ship and crew are being held in St. John's, Newfoundland.

According to the affidavit, the Virgo's radar should have alerted the crew to the Starbound when it was 20 kilometers away. It criticized the Virgo's captain, Vladimir Ivanov, for not posting a forward lookout and for not sounding whistle blasts once the Starbound was in sight. Ivanov has confirmed his ship was in the area, but he has denied seeing or hearing anything unusual.

Marcantonio was rescued by a fishing boat several hours after he first hit the water. The body of Sanfilippo, of Thomaston, Maine, was recovered, but the other two crewmen, Mark Doughty of Yarmouth, Maine, and Thomas Frontiero of Gloucester, Massachusetts, are presumed lost at sea.

Three members of the Virgo crew — Ivanov and crewmen Dmitry Bogdanov and Mikhail Gerasimenko — are charged with misconduct and involuntary manslaughter.

They were arrested at a Canadian airport Tuesday night as they tried to head home. They are free on bail but must remain in Canada pending a Sept. 13 court appearance, when a date is to be set for an extradition hearing.

Carey Dearnley, spokeswoman for Primorsk Shipping, said the crew has been relieved and will be replaced.

The widows of Doughty and Sanfilippo sued Primorsk Shipping on Friday. They are seeking $6 million each.

Atlantic Mariner Inc., the company that owned the Starbound, filed a $1.5 million case a week earlier.