Nathan Carman told investigators that he deployed a life raft as his 32-foot fishing boat started sinking, and then went looking for his mother, Linda. By then, she had vanished into the Atlantic Ocean, the Coast Guard said Monday.
Carman, 22, of Vermont, reported to the Coast Guard that he climbed into the four-person raft and searched for his mother in the area where his boat, the Chicken Pox, sank Sept. 18, a day after leaving Point Judith, R.I. “He never saw her again,” said Petty Officer Third Class Nicole Groll.
The account emerged Monday, a day after a Chinese freighter picked up Carman while passing 100 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Despite the unexpected good news in the search, Coast Guard officials are convinced Linda Carman, 54, of Middletown, Conn., could not have survived the apparent sinking near Block Canyon, off New York.
“Unfortunately, the decision to suspend a case is never an easy one, and we will not be resuming the search for Linda Carman at this time,” Groll said, citing the water temperature, the lack of food and water, and the fact that the Chicken Pox had only one life raft.
Linda Carman’s loved ones say they are upset the search will not be resumed. “It’s very frustrating,” said Sharon Hartstein, a friend of Linda Carman who is acting as a family spokeswoman. “We want her found. We’re not ready to give up.”
Coast Guard officials, who had called off the search two days before Nathan Carman turned up, were waiting for him to arrive Tuesday in Boston aboard the Orient Lucky so they could “get a clear sense of what happened,” Groll said.
She said the Coast Guard had not known the vessel had a life raft when it initially called off the search.
Groll said there was no record of a mayday call as the boat was sinking. Radios are not required on vessels such as the Chicken Pox, Groll said, though they are highly recommended for safety.
The mother and son had sailed from Ram Point Marina in Point Judith, R.I., on Sept. 17. One day later, the Coast Guard was alerted the Carmans had failed to return, triggering a search that lasted several days and covered 62,000 square nautical miles.
Neither Carman nor his mother was spotted by searchers, but the crew on the Orient Lucky found him, the Coast Guard said.
Nathan Carman was in good health, had food and water with him in the lifeboat, and was wearing a life vest when he was found, Groll said.
Hartstein, the family friend, said Linda and Nathan Carman regularly went on fishing trips.
“Linda enjoyed getting together with her son, and that was one of the things they did to bond,” she said.
Carman’s father lives on the West Coast, she said.
Family members had struggled through a scare with Nathan Carman in 2011, when he disappeared at age 17 from their Connecticut home and was the subject of a massive search before resurfacing in Virginia.
Family members said at the time they believed he was grieving a beloved horse that had died.
Two years later, the family endured the death of Linda Carman’s father, John Chakalos, a developer found shot to death in his Windsor, Conn., home. This spring, the family offered a $250,000 reward for help finding the killer, WVIT-TV reported.
Hartstein described Linda Carman, who works at an agency that provides services to children with developmental disabilities, as one of the kindest people she’d known.
“They’re all devastated, and we’re all keeping our hopes up,” Hartstein said of Linda Carman’s clients.
She said she believes Linda Carman could still be out there.
“She’s got to come back because the world needs her,” Hartstein said.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Andy Rosen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.