Man plucked from life boat after week at sea reaches Boston

Posted at 6:16 PM, Sep 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-27 18:16:04-04

BOSTON (AP) — A Vermont man who spent a week at sea in a life raft before being rescued by a passing freighter was questioned by Coast Guard officials Tuesday and reunited with his father. His mother is still missing and presumed dead.

Nathan Carman, 22, of Vernon, spent seven days in a four-person, inflatable life raft after his 31-foot aluminum fishing boat sank. The Coast Guard has said it will not reopen a search for his mother, Linda Carman, 54, of Middletown, Connecticut, because her chances of surviving in the Atlantic Ocean without a life raft, food or water are minimal.

Nathan Carman was taken to Boston Tuesday by the same freighter that rescued him two days earlier. He appeared healthy and alert as he walked on a dock leading to the Coast Guard base. He didn't speak as he stepped off the boat and was quickly taken to a waiting car.

Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone said the Coast Guard conducted a "survivor debriefing" with Carman, a standard procedure for people who are rescued at sea.

"We want to find out what happened, what can we do better to aid a search and rescue in the future," Stone said.

Stone said he left the base several hours later with his father, Clark Carman, who flew in from his home in California. Stone said she did not have any details on what Carman told the Coast Guard about what happened aboard his fishing boat, named Chicken Pox.

"I do know that his father flew across the country to be with him. I know there was a reunion and that they left together," Stone said.

Carman and his mother set off for a fishing trip Sept. 18, but their boat sank. The Coast Guard searched for the mother and son for days but called off the search Friday. Nathan Carman was found by a passing freighter — in good condition — two days later. He was discovered off the coast of Massachusetts, about 100 nautical miles south of Martha's Vineyard.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Groll said Coast Guard officials spoke by phone with Carman after he was rescued by the freighter. Groll said he said when his boat started to sink, it went down quickly.

"He looked for his mother and did not see her. He had some food and water, and he jumped into the life raft, and that was it," Groll said Monday.

Groll said the Coast Guard did not receive a distress call, but she was unsure if the boat was equipped with a VHF radio that could be used to contact emergency personnel.

Family members have said Nathan Carman has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism.

Hubert Santos, a high-profile Connecticut attorney, told The Associated Press that his firm sent a lawyer to Boston to meet Carman. He said Carman "fully cooperated" with the Coast Guard. Santos would not reveal what Carman told Coast Guard officials.

"It was a tragic accident," Santos said.

Santos said he represented Carman on previous matters. He would not disclose what those matters were. Santos said he contacted the Coast Guard and the U.S. attorney's office in Connecticut and Massachusetts to let them know that whether "he needs a lawyer or not," Carman has an attorney who wants to be present before any interviews are done.

Sharon Hartstein, a close friend of Linda Carman's, said the mother and son regularly went on fishing trips together.

"They went fishing — that was one of their bonding things," Hartstein said. "When he was available, she tried to make time so she could spend time with him."

Hartstein said Linda Carman worked to help children with autism with daily tasks, including dressing and shaving.

"She has connected with these families in such a way that they're devastated, they are missing her and can't imagine life without her," Hartstein said.

The family was also struck by tragedy in 2013 when Linda Carman's 87-year-old father, John Chakalos, a real estate developer from Windsor, Connecticut, was found fatally shot in his home. The death was ruled a homicide; no arrest has been made. Earlier this year, the family offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of Chakalos' killer.

Capt. Thomas LePore, of Windsor, said Tuesday that the investigation into Chakalos' murder remains "open and active."

LePore said police interviewed Chakalos' relatives, including Nathan and Linda Carman, as part of the investigation. He declined to comment when asked if police had identified any suspects or persons of interest.

"We spoke with numerous people during the homicide investigation, Nathan being one of them," LePore said.

Santos declined to comment on the Chakalos homicide.

Linda Carman's mother, Rita Chakalos, died of cancer just weeks before her father was killed. John and Rita Chakalos were philanthropists who split their time between Connecticut and Chesterfield, New Hampshire, where they had an estate known for its massive holiday lights display.

A will filed in the probate division of New Hampshire's 8th Circuit Court shows that John Chakalos left an estate worth more than $42 million to his four adult daughters.


Associated Press Writers David Collins contributed to this report from Hartford, Holly Ramer contributed from Concord, New Hampshire.

Download the ABC2 News app for the iPhone, Kindle and Android.