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‘I have to go’: Woman in the midst of business call sees fishing boat sinking, alerts rescuers

Three fishermen were rescued after their boat sank off the South Shore.
Video released by the Scituate Police Department shows rescue boats throwing rescue rings to three fishermen whose 55-foot fishing vessel sank off Scituate. (Video courtesy of Lieutenant Eric Norlin, Scituate Fire Department)

Pam Harght was working from her home in Marshfield Tuesday afternoon when something outside caught her attention. She was on a business call at her desk and looking out the window at the ocean, and she had a clear view of a fishing vessel on the water.

She’d recognized the 55-foot boat because she’d seen it before, going up and down the coast. But this time, it appeared to be in trouble.

“I saw the boat, and all of a sudden it looked like it had turned over,” she said. “Something was clearly wrong.”

Then she saw a cloud of black smoke, and the boat disappeared.


“It happened so fast,” she said. “I excused myself from the call. I said, ‘I have to go,’ and just hung up.”

She called 911 and was soon relaying what she saw to the police, fire department, and Coast Guard. Using the compass app on her smartphone, she gave them the coordinates so they could locate the sunken vessel and its crew, who were now stranded in frigid waters off the coast of Scituate.

The boat that sank was the Bing Bing, out of Gloucester.

One of the fishermen on the boat was Joe Roderick, 50, of New Bedford. He said in a telephone interview Wednesday from South Shore Hospital that being in the water was “pure hell.”

He was one of three men taken to the hospital for treatment of severe hypothermia.

They had been fishing for surf clams when the trouble started.

“We were on the deck, and the boat started tipping, listing to one side,” Roderick said. “Within two minutes the boat capsized, flipped itself over. We got thrown in the water.”

Roderick said he started swimming as fast as he could away from the sinking boat, to a 200-foot hose that’s used for fishing for surf clams.


“That was the only thing that was floating,” he said.

Roderick was wearing many layers, including two pairs of socks, three pairs of sweat pants, two hooded sweat shirts, boots, and a heavy jacket and pants. As he treaded water, he said, he felt like he was constantly being pulled down by the extra weight.

Harght apparently was the only witness to the sinking, according to authorities.

Her 911 call came in at 2:36 p.m. and Scituate police and fire personnel were dispatched. Boats from the Scituate Police Department, Scituate harbormaster’s office, and Marshfield harbormaster’s office got underway.

Officials said the rescue boats found the three men in the water about a half-mile offshore, clinging to the black hose. The vessel had sunk beneath them and there was diesel fuel everywhere.

Scituate Fire Chief John Murphy said the water was 42 degrees, and the conditions were rough, with 4- to 6-foot seas.

“It was pretty nasty out there,” Murphy said. “A tough environment to survive in.”

The men were not wearing life jackets or survival suits.

“Whatever happened with that boat, happened fast,” he said. “The only thing that kept them alive was that black hose. They were clinging on for life.”

The rescuers tried several times to throw rescue rings to the fishermen.

“They were in tough shape,” said Murphy. “They couldn’t swim at all. They were on their last legs. We basically had to get right next to them to get them on the boat.”


When the men were pulled out of the water, they had been in the water for at least 45 minutes.

“We tried to warm them up,” said Murphy. “They were barely able to talk, one couldn’t talk at all. They were depleted of all energy.”

As of Wednesday, one of the men had been released from the hospital, according to Murphy.

“They’re all going to make it,” he said.

If Harght had not seen the vessel go down, the story might have ended differently. “We’re very fortunate she called,” Murphy said.

Harght is glad that she was at the right place at the right time.

“It was a total fluke,” she said. “I just happened to be looking out the window.”

Emily Sweeney can be reached at Follow her @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.