The missing fishing vessel, yellow on the “Nuova Isis” investigation of two merchant ships
At 3.30 on 11 May in the port of Terrasini the sea was a table, a slight breeze blew over the heads of the sailors who finally, after the lockdownthey went off to cast their nets. Vito greets his companion Giovanna and gets on board.
The New Isis is his dream: built in 2002, he bought it two years ago. He struggled hard, but now also thanks to the help of his father, he has a fishing boat and he is in charge of it. Giuseppe works hard to prepare the equipment, he never pulled back when there is to work. Also because at home, in addition to his love, Cristina, he has four children waiting for him: the last one is just two years old.Matteo is on the bridge, one who has many stories to tell. He has been going to sea since he was wearing shorts, always behind his father Vito, an authority in Terrasini’s navy. They call him Matteo “storm”, because as a fisherman tells us, “he went out when the sea was big and he was ashore when there was calm”.
The New Isis is ready, the mooring lines are untied. The bow points north, in the body of water between Ustica and San Vito lo Capo. After a couple of hours of sailing they cast the longline, a long line that holds many hooks, praying to the god of fishing to pull up as many swordfish and tuna as possible. The crisis is felt. They stay out all Monday and Tuesday. When they lift the net, their loot is a 25 kilo sword. “We are at home on Wednesday for lunch,” Vito communicates to his mother and girlfriend over the phone. They still have fishing line, it’s a shame to waste it.
The mysteries of the “Nuova Iside”, the fishing boat disappeared in Palermo. The three sailors, all of the same family
After the first measure, they throw the longline again into the sea. The sun goes down, the wind blows from the south. Forecasts for the night between 12 and 13 May speak of rough seas, a wave of less than a meter. Just a slight annoyance for a well-equipped boat of 15 meters in length.
At 8.43 pm Giuseppe calls his wife Cristina: “Love, I am tired dead, I am going to rest. Tomorrow we withdraw the longline. At 9.15 pm Matteo calls his father: he is not worried, he tells him that tomorrow they will return to the port. He seems to be going all in the right direction. At 9:45 pm the blue box satellite system, which the fishing boats must have on board, automatically communicates the position to the competent authorities (about 12 miles from San Vito) and the cruising speed (1.4 knots) .
The next signal should be leaving in two hours. Keep this in mind. At 22.33 Cristina sends a message on whatsapp to Giuseppe: there is a double check that certifies the reception, but no reply will arrive, probably the husband is sleeping. He will never read it again.
Timetables are important in this story. At 23.53 the companion sends a message on whatsapp to Vito: just a tick, he has not arrived at his destination. “But above all – he says Aldo Ruffino, the lawyer who is following the Lo Iacono family – at 11.45 pm the blue box will not give any signal. This makes us think that something happened between 10.33 pm, the time of the last message received, and 11.45 pm when the satellite system had to report the position “. This is the time frame in which the New Isis is been swallowed.
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The bad weather hypothesis and the strange witness
What happened in that hour? The first explanations seem to be flawed. But let’s go in order. No news comes from the New Isis. The families of the three fishermen are alarmed and after lunch they go to the harbor master’s office to report the incident. The sirocco blows strongly that day, the air is unbreathable. The rough sea makes us fear the worst. Even a fisherman from Balestrate shows up to the coast guard to tell that he heard the crew missing around 7.30 in the morning.The hypothesis of the shipwreck due to bad weather takes shape: from the first reconstructions they would be alive when the weather on Sicily changes considerably. The sea conditions, in the middle of the morning of the 13th, become worrying: sea waves up to 2 and a half meters high, strong gusts of wind. Matteo “storm” would have lost the last chance. But family members don’t believe it: daredeval yes, imprudent no.
The weather of 13 May
There is a detail that cracks the version of a bad weather accident. Around 6.30 fishermen find a buoy, as confirmed by investigative sources. Matteo’s brother Daniele has no doubts, he is from Nuova Isis: a green string and a cut in the net are the signs. “This element – continues the lawyer Ruffino – is fundamental: if the marine conditions worsen in the middle of the morning, why is a piece of the fishing boat alone in the water, before the weather changes?”
Strange. Just as it is unusual another fact that will happen in the following days. The witness who had told the captain’s office to have heard them on the morning of the 13th, confides to the families of the missing people that he had made a mistake: he had spoken to them twenty-four hours earlier, Tuesday 12th and not Wednesday. How can you make such a memory error without a significant lapse of time? We tried to ask the person concerned, but preferred not to answer, hurriedly putting the phone down.
The fender buoy of the “New Isis” found
The doubts of the fishermen
We went to talk to those who know that stretch of sea north of Sicily well. We listened to the fishermen of the marinas of Terrasini, Castellammare del Golfo and Isola delle females to better understand what happened between 12 and 13 May. Few believe the shipwreck, all point out a detail: in bad weather, just press a button to trigger the alarm and in this case it has not been done.”In an emergency, there are three types of radio signals based on the level of danger mayday and all the competent authorities and the shipping in the area are notified. It takes a few seconds to start the procedure, which suggests that they have not had time, “says Joseph Cracchiolo, legal consultant for fishing who is also following the families of the victims.
Important findings are also provided by the findings of the bodies of Matteo and Giuseppe, off Ustica. The first to be identified, on May 14, is that of Giuseppe: he only wears boxers. Two days later Matteo is found: he has two shirts and a sweatshirt. Salvatore Lo Iacono, fisherman and relative of the victims, reflects on one circumstance: “If there is a dangerous situation, wear life jackets and they didn’t have them”.
According to the lawyer’s reconstruction, Giuseppe, having seen the clothing, would have found himself in a cot, as he had said to his wife. Just like Vito, probably. While Matteo would have stayed on the bridge. “If it is covered with a sweatshirt it means that there was not a strong sirocco wind and therefore there was not an excessively rough sea,” speculates the lawyer.
On the indications of the coast guard, in the days following the event, some fishermen recovered the longline, a flag and a towel most likely belonging to the New Isis. Michele Davì captain of the motorboat San Marco of Isola delle Femmine recovered the fishing equipment on May 18: “The longline was intact, they could not bring it up. If there is bad weather bring it on board to prevent it from breaking”.
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The hour of death
We exclude, based on the reconstruction of the times and the doubts of the fishermen, the possibility of a risk of the fishing boat. Two alternatives remain: an abnormal wave or a collision with another boat. Sources inside the prosecutor’s office, which delegated the investigations to the coast guard, confirm that these are the two alternatives they are working on.Certainly something rapid, unexpected happened, which did not give the three time to do anything. A sudden wave seems to be excluded by those who sail that sea every day, the fishermen are convinced that the New Isis made a ship go to the bottom of the sea.
A disturbing hypothesis that raises several questions. The first: how does a fishing boat not notice the arrival of a large-sized boat? Wouldn’t the wave generated by the ship wake him up imagining Matteo tired and asleep on the bridge? Difficult to answer.
“More than a ramming, I think of a collision. A ramming would crumble the boat and therefore many pieces would have been found. While a lateral contact could have made the New Isis overturn”, advises the consultant Cracchiolo.
A few pieces of timber attributable to the fishing vessel were found, not much. The master shipbuilder who built the New Isis said that a piece of the deck and dead work (the part of the hull that is not underwater) recovered by the coastguard are compatible with the missing boat.
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We did a search through Marinetraffic, the site that tracks ship movements. The result, which cannot have scientific precision because not all boats provide the position and coordinates of the New Isis can vary by several meters, is disturbing and would feed the doubts of the family and fishermen.
We analyzed the journeys between San Vito lo Capo and Ustica between 21 and 40 on 12 May and 3 on 13 May. In the circumscribed area where the fishing boat of the Lo Iacono was to be, around 10.50 pm, an oil tanker passes. Times would return: the last signal of the blue box is 9:45 pm, the last message received on Whatsapp of 22.33. Is it possible that the ship did not see the New Isis, is it possible that nobody was on the bridge of the oil tanker, while proceeding on autopilot?
We contacted the owner. An external relations manager confirmed the presence of the boat in the area, but “the crew did not hear or see anything and therefore could not assist. The stretch of sea where they were sailing is very large”.
Another detail is striking, although it could only be a coincidence. Around 11 pm the ship has a sudden drop in speed: it goes from 12.3 to 11.9 knots. A very small slowdown that could be caused by thousands of different factors, but that only happens at that time on that night.
“It is necessary to shed full light on this tragedy and research must be continued and intensified using all available tools – the deputy of Leu wrote in a question, Erasmo Palazzotto – Check the possible transit of other boats in the stretch of sea that goes from San Vito lo Capo to Ustica and study the black boxes “. The families of the victims also ask:” We want justice and Vito’s body “.