When panic turns to anger
Published on November 19th, 2019
After three people set off on a 40-foot sailboat (above) from Down East, Maine, and for three days were believed to be in distress and missing, reported this week they were fine and off the coast of Long Island, New York.
Coast Guard personnel called off an extensive air-and-sea search of the New England coast after one of the boaters made cellphone contact with family. The Coast Guard was informed by about 2 p.m. on Monday (Nov.18) and suspended the search that had begun Saturday morning (Nov. 16).
“They found themselves,” said Coast Guard Operations Unit Controller Chris Berry. “They started answering their phone. One of them called or texted their parents in reply to their parents’ texts and said they were fine, were off Montauk, and were continuing their trip south.”
Charlotte Kirby, Nathaniel Davis, and Wilfredo Lombardo set off from Mount Desert Island sometime before dawn on Saturday without telling family exactly when they were leaving or where they were headed.
The search began after an emergency dispatcher on the mainland received a garbled 911 call from Kirby’s cellphone about 3 a.m. Saturday. The person calling said they were on a boat, and then the line cut out.
The dispatcher could not reach the caller again and called the Coast Guard, triggering a wide-ranging, multiday search with boats and aircraft. Police pinged the cellphone and determined the call originated about 20 miles south of the coast of Mount Desert Island. The Coast Guard then searched the area of the cellphone ping, but found no sign of the vessel or the crew.
It was unclear why someone aboard the vessel dialed 911. On Monday evening, relatives of Lombardo said they were relieved, but also frustrated.
“We’re breathing again,” said Sam Holland, Lombardo’s stepfather. “Now I’m mad. Now I want some answers. I want to know what the hell happened. We want to know why there was a distress call at 3 o’clock in the morning.”
Holland and Wilfredo Lombardo’s mother, Anita Lombardo, said they spent the last two days distraught, imagining that their son, 42, who goes by “Freddy,” was dead and lost.
“We’re just a mess,” said Anita Lombardo during an interview about four hours before her son was located. “Losing your son in the ocean and not knowing where he’s at. I’m not ready to consider it a tragedy yet, we still have hope. We’re trying.”
The Coast Guard’s search began Saturday with fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft. Rescue workers scoured the waters up and down the New England coast, and by Sunday at dusk, they had searched 2,700 square nautical miles without finding a trace of the craft or its crew.