• Friend of duck hunters reacts to deaths


    WESTPORT, Mass. (MyFoxBoston.com) – A friend of a duck hunter who died along with another man Wednesday after their boat capsized in the Westport River described his friend as an experienced outdoorsman who died too young.

    Dr. Matthew Philips, friend of victim Steve James, spoke only to FOX 25 Tuesday night about his loss.

    "It is just a pure tragedy, period," Phillips said.

    At just 53, James of Marshfield, died Monday morning doing one of his favorite things in the world: duck hunting. While he was out hunting with two friends, his boat capsized in the Westport River.

    Philips likely would have been with the other men, had he not been scheduled to be in surgery.

    "We tended to hunt two, three times a week in duck season, which started in November and runs until mid-January," he said.

    James took two friends on his boat camouflaged with leaves and sticks Tuesday morning. Somehow the boat capsized, both James and Robert Beecher, 55, of Connecticut, died in the frigid conditions. They were later located by the Harbormaster.

    James is well known in the area as the organizer of the iconic Monster Shark Tournament on Martha's Vineyard. He also was the president of the Boston Big Game Fishing Club and the Stellwagen Bank Charter Boat Association, a group of charter boat captains and mates.

    Fishing, hunting and anything outdoors was his passion, Phillips said of James.

    "And I think some of his passion was at times misunderstood particularly by opponents of fishing and hunting. He knew more about sustaining migratory fishing species such as tuna and shark than anyone else I know," Phillips said.

    A third man in the boat Tuesday, who did survive, somehow made it to the shore of a small island. Dr. Gregg Angell, 51, an OB/GYN at St. Luke's in New Bedford was pulled to safety.

    Philips said Angell likely survived because of his physical strength.

    "I recall him, one day kayaking, we were duck hunting in the Westport River and him effortlessly paddling that kayak against the current," he said.

    Philips says if Angel is one of the strongest outdoorsman, James was one of the most experienced outdoorsman he's ever met. That fact makes it that much harder for him to comprehend that his friend died, doing what he had done so many times before.

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