CAPE ELIZABETH (AP) – A crewman on the lobster boat that capsized when it was hit by a rogue wave says he was trapped in the overturned vessel at first, but survived after finding an air pocket in the engine room.

Chip Currier’s crew mate Lance Smith also swam to safety after Wednesday’s accident, but the skipper, Steve Smith, was still missing after a Coast Guard rescue effort turned into a recovery mission Thursday. Officials said they don’t believe anyone could survive for long in the cold water.

The April Lee was struck by a wave that might have been kicked up by the remnants of Hurricane Florence around midday Wednesday. Currier was hauling traps alongside Steve Smith and his son when the wave hit, Currier told WCSH-TV.

“Steve looked at both of us and says, ‘Look at that wave,’ and he just turned to us and said, ‘Hold on,”‘ Currier said.

Currier, a burly man, said almost instantly he was under water and got stuck between the engine and bait box. He said he was finally able to pull himself through the engine room and found an air pocket.

Currier and the younger Smith were able to swim to shore in the 59-degree water, but Smith’s father disappeared.

Coast Guard, Maine Marine Patrol and local rescue units searched in boats along the coastline, and a Coast guard helicopter also looked for the missing man.

Divers found difficult conditions while looking for the missing man.

“You’re on a ledge one moment, then you’re in about 30, 40, 48 feet of water,” said Paul Joyce of the Marine Patrol.

Smith kept his 38-foot lobster boat at the Spring Point Marina next to a cabin cruiser on which he and his wife spent summers. Friends said Smith loved the water and practically lived on it.

Spring Point’s assistant dock master, Joe Galnif, said he had known Smith for years.

“That’s definitely the way he would have wanted to die, and that was on the ocean,” said Galnif. “He was a salty dog. He liked the water.”

Another lobster boat was also overturned by a wave on Wednesday, but the man who was on board survived.


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