Captain Frank Airhart of 657 Cottage Street formerly was a resident of Maryland and had come to New Bedford within the last few years. He had been engaged in fishing only two years although he was a veteran seaman, having served 15 years as chief boatswain's mate in the Merchant Marine. Captain Airhart purchased the $100,000 Theresa A., a former Coast Guard Search and Rescue boat, about six months earlier. Since then he and his wife, Helen, had operated the business between them.
Captain Airhart's parents were both living but advanced in years. They both resided in the South, and Mrs. Airhart refused to divulge their identity or any facts relative to her husband until either the men were found or the Coast Guard called off the search. Captain and Mrs. Airhart had no children.
The Theresa A., an aircraft rescue boat converted for use as a fishing vessel, left Fairhaven on September 9, 1950, and was last sighted fishing on Georges Bank. On September 12, the ship sent two radio messages: first a distress signal and then a message that the crew was abandoning ship. The weather was extremely bad, with heavy seas and winds of roughly 55 miles per hour. The Coast Guard launched a sea and air search, joined by several merchant vessels. The search continued until September 16, but no trace of the ship or its crew was found.
The only body recovered was that of Ernest Rich, who was found in October floating off Seal Island in Penobscot Bay.