The Portland Press Herald

About 1 a.m. on Aug. 5, 2001, a Russian oil tanker collided with a fishing boat bound for Rockland from Georges Bank with a hold full of herring.

The 541-foot tanker, which had left Boston, continued its journey to Newfoundland. The 83-foot trawler sank in about a minute, dragging three men trapped inside to their deaths. The boat’s captain scrambled into a lifeboat and survived.

The story, which held the attention of the news media for about a year, was a mix of maritime tragedy and international intrigue as the U.S. Department of Justice wrangled with authorities in Canada and Russia. The case was complicated by maritime law, which doesn’t give the United States jurisdiction over international waters.

The captain and two crew members of the Russian ship were charged in Newfoundland with manslaughter. Released on bail, they returned to Russia. The charges eventually were dropped.


The media moved on from the story long ago, but the families of the men who died have not. Today, the 10th anniversary of the crash, the grief remains for the family of Mark Doughty, a fisherman from Yarmouth who was 33 when he left behind a wife and two young daughters.

“We don’t want anybody to forget them or what happened to them boys, all of them,” said his sister, Sharon Brown. “All the families are feeling the same right now. It’s a horrible way to lose a child or a brother.”

A Coast Guard investigation concluded that there was no reasonable explanation for why the crew of the tanker, the Virgo, failed to prevent the collision 130 miles east of Cape Ann, Mass. The circumstances required the tanker to give way to the smaller vessel, the Starbound.

The Starbound’s radar was functioning, but its collision alarm did not activate.

Starbound crew members James Sanfilippo of Thomaston and Thomas Frontiero of Gloucester, Mass., perished along with Doughty. One of Doughty’s closest friends, the captain, Joseph Marcantonio of Gloucester, survived.

He said this week that he remains too upset about the crash to talk about it.


The fact that the Coast Guard never recovered Doughty’s body made his death harder to accept, Brown said.

Doughty’s mother, Shirley Doughty Horr, who lives in Portland, said that at times she expects Mark to walk through the doorway of her apartment. He was an outstanding swimmer, she said, and for a long time she held out hope that he had managed to reach an island somewhere.

“When I went to the funeral, nothing was real to me,” she said. “People kept telling me he was gone,” but it didn’t feel that way.

Horr’s grief was so deep after the death of her youngest child that she remained in bed for months. Within a year, she had lost 50 pounds.

She finally escaped her depression, she said, after she became a regular volunteer at a nearby nursery school. She loves children, and there’s nothing more healing than spending her days with them, she said.

Horr and her former husband, Robert Doughty, raised five children on Chebeague Island. Mark was adored as the baby of the family and developed a happy-go-lucky nature that put him at the family’s center.


Brown, who was 10 years older, said her bond with him was especially strong because he was like her own child.

Brown has hung photographs of Mark Doughty all over her home in Phippsburg.

In her living room, Horr has a 6-foot-tall glass case that displays photos of Mark as a baby, a Boy Scout, a teenager at his high school graduation, and a fishermen. There’s also a copy of his captain’s license, issued by the Coast Guard, and statuettes of various religious figures and angels.

She also keeps a chest filled with newspaper clippings, some of Mark’s clothing, VHS tapes of television news stories about the accident, and correspondence with the staff of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who had worked on the legal case with the Department of Justice.

Robert Doughty of Greenville, Mark Doughty’s oldest brother, said he still thinks of Mark every day. He went to Gloucester recently to see some old friends. At the Crow’s Nest, a waterfront bar that’s popular with fishermen, he saw a photo of the Starbound hanging on the wall behind the bar.

“I said, ‘That’s my brother’s boat.’ There were two older guys there. They thought the world of Mark. They had tears in their eyes.”

Brown said she cried almost every day for two years after her brother’s death. She has finally accepted the loss.

“I have come to realize, after 10 years, that my little brother is an angel,” she said, “and his grave is the ocean.”

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