Coast Guard Suspends Search for Missing Fisherman

1 dead, 1 remains missing from fishing vessel Mary James

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Coast Guard crews ended their search for Mark Drayton and the fishing vessel Mary James at about 10:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Drayton, from Burlington Township, N.J., and Merele Rubert, from Smithville, N.J., were last heard from Sunday evening by the crew of the Mary James’ sister ship, the Nautilus.

Involved in the search were Coast Guard crews aboard the Cutter Finback and Cutter Ibis, 87-foot coastal patrol boats homeported in Cape May, N.J., HC-130 Hercules long-range surveillance aircraft from Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., HH-65C Dolphin rescue helicopters from Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., and 47-foot motor lifeboats from Station Manasquan Inlet, N.J., and Station Barnegat, N.J.

Responding to a mayday call on marine radio at about 11:15 p.m. Sunday, the Coast Guard directed a rescue helicopter crew from Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., to search the area, about 33 miles east of Barnegat Inlet, N.J. Communication center watchstanders also began issuing an urgent marine information broadcast to notify nearby vessels of the search and request that they report any sightings to the Coast Guard.

A subsequent helicopter search resulted in the location of an empty life raft Monday at about 2:30 a.m. About four hours later, a helicopter crew located the body of Merele Rubert, along with a life ring and life jacket with the vessel name Mary James printed on them. The fishing vessel Mary James is a 40-foot scallop boat that moors at the Red Lobster Shack in Manasquan, N.J.

Rubert’s body was recovered by a motor lifeboat crew from Station Manasquan Inlet and transported back to the station for transfer to the Ocean County medical examiner.

In all, Coast Guard crews completed two dozen separate search patterns, or sorties, totaling more than 5,500 square nautical miles, or more than 6,330 square statute miles, searched.

“The decision to suspend a Coast Guard search and rescue case is never an easy one,” said Capt. Ted Harrop, deputy commander of Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay, in Philadelphia. “But, at this time, we feel that we have done everything we possibly could to find Mr. Drayton and the fishing vessel Mary James.”

“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Merele Rubert and Mark Drayton during this difficult time.”

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