Anchor Rode Drowns Veteran Fisherman - 12/10/2008

We have all seen cartoons in which a fish or anchor pulls a man overboard and it seems as funny as it does far-fetched. The trouble is that it happens from time to time. Having seen a wire-man pulled overboard by a giant black marlin off the Great Barrier Reef we are well aware of how accidents like this can happen – and sometimes the crew can do nothing to rescue the man overboard. Tragedy struck Dec. 2 off Montauk, NY when a veteran fisherman became tangled in his anchor line.

Marty McMillan
Marty McMillan with his son,
Cody, after a good day of fishing.

Re-printed from the The East Hampton Press
By Michael Wright
December 2, 2008

A recreational fisherman died on Sunday morning after he fell off his boat near Montauk Point and drowned. Marty L. McMillan, 51, of Wantagh was fishing with his son and two friends on his 30-foot boat, Xiao Mu Ji, when his leg became entangled in the boat’s anchor line. He was dragged overboard and underwater, the U.S. Coast Guard and East Hampton Town Police said.

According to accounts given to police by the other men aboard the boat, including Mr. McMillan’s 17-year old son, Cody, the group had been fishing for blackfish 11 miles northeast of Montauk Point and had been anchored in an area of Block Island Sound known as the Southwest Ledge when the accident happened.

Police said the boat’s anchor line apparently became entangled in a lobster pot tether line while Mr. McMillan was attempting to pull up the anchor and move to a different spot. While he was trying to untangle them, the anchorline suddenly came tight as the tide carried the boat. Mr. McMillan was unable to get his legs clear and was pulled overboard. He was not wearing a life-preserver.

The Struggle On Board

The other men repeatedly tried to pull the struggling fisherman from the water, but Mr. McMillan was pulled him under the surface again and again. When the anchor line became entangled in the boat’s propeller, Coast Guard officials said, the men could not maneuver the boat to relieve pressure on the anchor line.

A Coast Guard spokesman, seaman Darryl Lanki, said that a distress call went out from the Xiao Mu Ji about 9:30 a.m. Mr. McMillan was pulled unconscious from the water aboard the Vivienne by its captain, John DeMaio, a charter captain who had been fishing nearby. He administered CPR but felt no pulse.

USCG Arrives

A Coast Guard boat from Montauk arrived at the scene but the decision was made to keep Mr. McMillan aboard the Vivienne for the half-hour ride to Montauk. He was pronounced dead at Southampton Hospital. Another Coast Guard boat from Pt. Judith, Rhode Island, towed the Xaio Mu Ji to the Coast Guard station in Montauk.

Capt. DeMaio said the Xiao Mu Ji’s anchor line was wrapped tightly around Mr. McMillan’s ankle and that there was a rope-burn on his neck. “In a situation like that, you don’t have much time,” said Capt. DeMaio, who has been a Montauk charter boat captain for 36 years. “When he went over, somebody would have had to jump over with him with a knife to cut him free. Then with the line in the wheel, they couldn’t run uptide to get enough slack in the line. One thing compounded another.”

He said there was great tension on the line because the currents in Block Island Sound are very strong. He noted that the anchor line was of a heavier gauge than most boats that size would use, which increases the force of the tide on the line.

A Place of Strong Tidal Currents

“It’s a bad place for anchoring, it’s vicious there,” Capt. DeMaio said, noting that he and others in the vicinity became aware of the emergency aboard the Xiao Mu Ji only when they saw a flare fired by Cody McMillan. “I was only a football field away but even in the best scenario I don’t think we would have gotten him up in time.”

Mr. McMillan lived in Nassau County but had been fishing in Montauk most of his life. He berthed his boat, a 30-foot aluminum sportfish he helped design himself, at Westlake Fishing Lodge in Montauk. The marina’s owner, Ed Miller, said the mood was solemn there on Sunday as word of the accident spread. Many of the marina’s boaters had heard Mr. McMillan’s son’s panicked call for help on the marine VHF radios on their own boats.

“It’s just a tragedy,” Mr. Miller said. “He loved fishing with his son. They were very good fishermen. They went together all the time and ... were very adventurous.”

The other two men on the boat, identified by police as David Bargeron of Pennsylvania and Demitrius Touloupakis of Massachusetts, had been invited fishing by Mr. McMillan and his son through an internet forum website dedicated to fishing discussions. They had met that day for only the first time.

Mr. McMillan was a Missouri native who moved to the East Coast in the 1970s. He owned Intelli-Tec Security Services, a security alarm business in Westbury. The firm’s website says that it is the 56th largest private security company in the country.

We would appreciate hearing of any similar experiences from our readers --