Five years ago fisherman Donald “Heavy D” Sutherland of Gloucester died at sea during a failed rescue attempt by a good samaritan and the coast guard.
On Thursday, in the rushing darkness of a winter twilight, the three-man crew of the 51-foot Orin C went into the water and only two emerged safely onto the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard’s 47-foot lifesaving boat out of Station Gloucester. David Sutherland, 47, of 10 Montvale Ave. — known to all along the waterfront as Heavy D — died in the water as the Coast Guard tried to rescue him after his slime eel boat sunk about 12 miles off Thacher Island.
The story began to unfold about 9:30 Thursday morning, when Phil Powell of Swampscott, captain of the groundfishing boat Foxy Lady, received word from Sutherland that the Orin C was taking on water and in trouble.
“I was about 25 miles out and Dave Sutherland called me from his boat,” Powell said. “He was out off Wildcat Knoll and they had broken down and needed assistance. I steamed for two hours, about 16 miles, to reach him and then we started the tow.
“I wasn’t going to leave him alone out there.”
While under tow, the winds started to blow with a greater fury, howling between 30 and 35 knots, while the seas rose from 8 feet to 10 feet. Powell said the tow went well for the first five hours despite the fact they were using a short line. But then the seas got worse.
“One wave hit him and brought his bow down and the second wave came and went over the top of his roof, opening up the front super structure of the boat,” Powell said. “At that time, about 3, I called the Coast Guard for assistance and they put a boat on route that was two hours away.”
Lepere said the station already was monitoring the situation by radio and, given the escalating wind and high seas, began readying the 47-foot lifeboat. He said that boat got underway at 3:33 p.m. with nine crew aboard. By then, the seas were between 10 and 12 feet. The Foxy Lady continued towing the Orin C in the worsening seas until the Coast Guard boat arrived. Lepere said the life boat reached the other two boats about 4:45 p.m. after cruising 13 miles.
“We discontinued the tow and the Coast Guard took over,” said Powell, a commercial fisherman of 31 years.
The first order of business was transferring a pump aboard the Orin C, but that proved difficult in the heaving water. Finally, they got the pump aboard and began to tow the Orin C toward land, but the pump was unable to keep up as water kept crashing over the bow.
“They towed him for approximately an hour, an hour-and-a-half,” Powell said. “He was still taking on water. They couldn’t maintain the pump to keep it running. The pump kept clogging with debris from the bilge.”
Finally, the Coast Guard personnel cut the tow line and told the men to get into their safety life suits and get in the water one at a time, Lepere said. The three men aboard the Orin C got into their suits and were standing at the stern of the boat when another wave just engulfed the boat, sending one whole side of it below water.
“The decks were awash and the boat just came out beneath their feet,” Powell said. They were in the water and darkness was everywhere. The Coast Guard, following protocol, began extracting the fishermen one-by-one from the water. Sutherland, according to Powell, was the last man in the water.
“By the time they got to Dave, they found him with his head in the water, unresponsive,” Powell said.
“Our guys picked up the first two guys out of the water and the third was just kind of on his back, backstroking,” Lepere said. “And then he stopped, not moving at all. So we put a swimmer in the water.”
The swimmer got Sutherland back to the Coast Guard vessel, but the fisherman remained unconscious and unresponsive when he was hauled on deck.
“There was no pulse and he wasn’t breathing,” Lepere said. “We began administering CPR and stayed at it for 45 minutes to an hour on the back deck of the 47.”
On Friday, Powell, clearly weary from the previous night’s events, was asked if he’d ever been through anything like that before.
“Many times,” he said. “I’ve done other sea rescues in years past and I’ve been rescued in years past. We don’t leave our friends behind.”
David “Heavy D” Sutherland seemed like a well liked guy, and his story is tragic.
Phil Powell should be considered a hero for using his boat to travel 25 miles through high sea waters to tow Sutherland’s boat, successfully saving the lives of two of the three men on board with his boat The Foxy Lady.
But now an attorney from Gloucester who we are all too familiar with is suing the good samaritan.
Joe Orlando Jr.
You may recall that two months ago Attorney Orlando Jr, whose father made him a partner in his law firm, called and threatened me not to publish a disturbing video of his client Luke Noble verbally abusing his then three year old daughter.
This is a disturbing video of Luke Noble, a candidate for North Andover Board of Selectmen pic.twitter.com/IDg9WCCWLu
— Max (@SurelyMacks) March 13, 2020
That video is even more troubling considering that Luke Noble is running for a seat on the North Andover Board of Selectmen, and was personally endorsed by Governor Charlie Baker.
Joe Orlando Jr has also been endorsed by Baker when he ran for Gloucester City Council.
Some have argued that Joe Orlando Jr was just representing his client when he threatened me, but it’s not a lawyer’s job to lie, as Orlando Jr lied to me. He told me that the
the video couldn’t be published because it was being used as evidence in ongoing litigation. That was completely made up, and done solely for the purpose of preventing the publication of relevant information about a man who is running for political office. Since then it’s been revealed that Luke Noble was accused by the same daughter in that video, her therapist, and pediatrician, of sexual abuse. Read the doctor’s damning deposition here.
Orlando Jr attempted to intimidate me into not reporting the first domino that led to these revelations. Thus I can’t say I’m surprised that he would be so tone deaf as to brag about suing a good samaritan on his business Facebook page. The article he shared about it can be read here, but allow me to summarize it.
- Orlando Jr is representing the estate of Sutherland and the two surviving crew members, who sued the Coast Guard, Phil Powell, and his boat
- Orlando Jr retained Gloucester harbormaster (city employee) Thomas “TJ” Ciarametaro, a coast guard “veteran,” as a witness against the defendant
- Ciarametaro says that Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken was furious that he would participate in helping to sue a good samaritan, prompting her to call him, tell him that he never should’ve been hired to be Harbormaster, and said “If you still want to be harbormaster, you will stop this”
- Ciarametaro says that Gloucester’s lawyer also called him and told him to “do the right thing
- The lawsuit against the coast guard was dismissed because they have immunity, but the lawsuit against Powell was not
- The judge called Powell’s actions “admirable” but agreed that Heavy D’s boat was damaged during and because of the tow, so the lawsuit hasn’t been dismissed
- The fishermen community is furious that Orlando Jr would recruit a member of the Mayor’s administration (Ciarametaro) as a witness to sue a good samaritan who tried to save the lives of other fishermen who are now suing him
The Mayor issued the following statement.
“The brave men and women who operate Gloucester’s fishing fleet have always looked out for each other, and they always will,” she writes. “We in government should do everything we can for their safety, including helping them to keep each other safe. We should never do anything that might cause them to hesitate in coming to the aid of a stricken vessel.”
“I believe that it is the public policy of the City to encourage Good Samaritans at sea,” Theken writes. “And I must question the judgment of any City official who acts contrary to that policy.”
It is the job of an attorney to give their clients the most vigorous representation they can provide, even when their clients are doing something horrible like suing a good samaritan. But no one forced Orlando Jr to take this case. He’s taking it because representing people like this is what enables him to live comfortably.
Why would any fisherman ever try to save anyone’s life anywhere near Gloucester now that they know that the ambulance chasing Orlando family will go after everything they own if they try and fail? Good samaritans now join the list of decent people who the Orlando family has targeted alongside journalists, mothers of allegedly abused children, and pediatricians who testify about sexual abuse.
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