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Fisherman falls from boat and drowns

Vessel was docked in New Bedford

By John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / January 29, 2011

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A Gloucester fisherman drowned yesterday after falling off his boat into the cold water of New Bedford Harbor, in what police said was a tragic combination of icy conditions and a narrow walkway placed between the boat and the dock.

Police would not release the identity of the 47-year-old man, who was a crew member aboard the fishing vessel Sunlight, which was docked for repairs in New Bedford.

But Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association, reported the victim was Giuseppe Cracchiolo, better known as “Joe.’’ He lived in Gloucester with his wife, children, and brother, but worked out of New Bedford, she said.

The victim was one of two crew members staying with the ship, said Lieutenant Jeffrey Silva, a police spokesman.

Silva said the two crew members went out Thursday evening and that the first man returned several hours later. A surveillance camera shows the crew member jumping up onto a wooden landing and then walking up a ramp onto the boat.

The victim returned around 1 a.m., said Silva. Video from the same surveillance camera showed the man slipping off the walkway and into the water, about 15 to 20 feet below, Silva said. He was unable to swim back to the ship, he said.

“It appears to be the intersection of Mother Nature and pure accident,’’ Silva said. “He slipped on the snow, but at the same time that narrow area where he was climbing — he could have slipped if it was 70 degrees out and there was no snow on the ground. It’s a tragic accident exacerbated by the slippery footing.’’

Silva said the drowning was discovered yesterday morning when the victim’s shipmate stepped onto the deck of the boat.

“He looks down, and directly below him he sees his friend, obviously deceased, floating face up in the water,’’ said Silva.

Silva said an autopsy would be performed to determine the cause of death.

Globe correspondent L. Finch contributed to this report. John Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com.