A man who says he spent a week at sea in a life raft before being rescued told the Coast Guard he frantically looked for his mother as their fishing boat sank in the Atlantic Ocean, according to an audio recording released Tuesday. His mother hasn't been found.
The recording captures a phone call a Coast Guard officer had with Nathan Carman, of Vernon, Vermont, after he was rescued off the coast of Massachusetts on Sunday by a passing freighter.
On the call, Carman, 22, describes hearing a "funny noise" in his boat's engine compartment, seeing water pouring in and losing sight of his mother, Linda Carman, of Middletown, Connecticut.
"I was bringing one of the safety bags forward. The boat just dropped out from under my feet," Carman said. "When I saw the life raft, I did not see my mom. Have you found her?"
After the officer tells Carman they have not found his mother, he describes getting to the life raft.
"I was whistling and calling and looking around, and I didn't see her," he said.
Linda Carman, 54, is presumed dead.
Nathan Carman, who was a suspect in his wealthy grandfather's unsolved killing, told the Coast Guard his 31-foot aluminum fishing boat sank and he spent seven days in a four-person inflatable life raft. Many questions remain about how the boat sank and what happened to his mother.
Defense attorney Hubert Santos said he's representing Carman. He said Carman "fully cooperated" with the Coast Guard after he was transported to Boston on Tuesday by the freighter that rescued him.
Santos wouldn't reveal what Carman told Coast Guard officials when he was questioned at the base.
"It was a tragic accident," Santos said.
The mother and son had left for their fishing trip from Port Judith, Rhode Island. Vermont authorities said police from South Kingstown, Rhode Island, searched Carman's home in Vernon on Monday. South Kingstown police did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Carman grew up in Middletown, Connecticut, but bought a home in Vermont two years ago.
Connecticut court records show Carman was a suspect in the 2013 killing of his maternal grandfather, 87-year-old John Chakalos, a real estate developer.
According to a search warrant for Carman's apartment obtained by the Hartford Courant, Carman was the last person known to see his grandfather alive on Dec. 20, 2013, because he had dinner with him at his home in Windsor. Chakalos was found dead the next morning. He had been shot three times.
The Courant reported Tuesday that Windsor police submitted an arrest warrant for Carman to a prosecutor but it was returned unsigned with a request for more information. Carman was not charged.
Santos declined to comment on that investigation.
A Coast Guard spokeswoman said Carman left the Boston base Tuesday afternoon with his father, Clark Carman, who flew in from his home in California.
The Coast Guard had searched for the mother and son for days but called off the search Friday. Nathan Carman was found in good condition two days later. He was discovered about 100 nautical miles south of Martha's Vineyard.
The Coast Guard said it didn't receive a distress call, but it was unclear 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.
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."
Windsor police Capt. Thomas LePore said Tuesday the investigation into Chakalos' killing remains open and active. He said police interviewed Chakalos' relatives, including Nathan and Linda Carman, as part of their investigation.
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 shows John Chakalos left an estate worth more than $42 million to his four adult daughters.