Updated 11:24 a.m. Feb. 20
The search for five missing Shelburne County fishermen is over. Officials made the decision to end the search at 6 p.m. yesterday, Feb. 19.
Any hope of survival has “diminished significantly due to frigid water and poor weather conditions” says a statement issued by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre.
"All our thoughts and prayers are with the fishermen's friends and families," said Captain Doug Kierstead of the JRCC.
Although official search efforts have ended, some in the community are pleading to have the search extended another day.
Despite there being the slimmest of hopes, many want the search for the captain and crew of the Miss Ally resumed. There are also reports that a local boat, the Vicious Fisher, headed out to the search area during the night.
In the meantime, the search is being turned over to the RCMP as a missing persons case, and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is deploying a team of investigators to Clark’s Harbour and Wood’s Harbour to gather information and assess what went wrong.
“We are in the process of gathering information before launching a full investigation,” said Pierre Murray, manager of the regional operations marine sector for the maritime and Newfoundland region.
The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety.
“We are not here to assign blame or liability,” said Murray. “Our primary purpose is to identify the cause and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
They have deployed a team to the area to speak with the registered company of the boat Papa’s Pride Inc. as well as the families to determine what went wrong.
He said that while it does make it difficult to investigate when the 14-metre vessel has still not been found, there are leads to go on.
“We know that they were communicating the previous evening with someone on shore,” said Murray.
He said that they would also be looking into whether the vessel itself was suitable to the type of environment it was in.
“We will look at everything,” he said. “What kind of experience the crew had, what kind of training, what the weather forecast was.”
They will also be investigating everything surrounding the rescue efforts with search and rescue and Transport Canada.
“Our mandate is to advance the safety of transportation by investigating accidents so that they do not happen again,” said Murray. “The loss of life on a fishing vessel is too high with 13 (deaths) a year.”
The ships and planes involved in the search were heading back to their bases. A spokesperson said that 24 hours is normally considered the longest someone can survive in immersion suits.
High seas and strong winds made search efforts a challenge. Hurricane force winds, near zero visibility and waves reaching 10 metres were reported in the early hours of the search. Those conditions improved, but waves of six metres were still hampering searchers on Tuesday.
The search for the 45-foot Miss Ally began Sunday night after an emergency locator beacon was activated at 11:06 p.m.
A life raft, spotted the next morning by and aircraft, has not been seen since. The hull of the capsized vessel was also spotted twice by aircraft.
Rescue Coordination Centre officials said all available resources were used in the search, which covered more than 7000 square miles off Nova Scotia’s south shore. A Royal Canadian Air Force CH-149 Cormorant helicopter, CC-130 Hercules aircraft, and CP-140 Aurora aircraft as well as the Canadian Coast Guard Ships William Alexander and Earl Grey were involved in the operation. A Department of Fisheries and Oceans contracted aircraft operated by Provincial Airlines, two United States Coast Guard aircraft as well as various merchant vessels were also involved in the search. — The Shelburne County Coast Guard