One fisherman dead, three others rescued after Newfoundland crab boat overturns

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Members of the Canadian Coast Guard Cape Fox tow the overturned fishing boat to shore in Lark Harbour June 26. 

TC MEDIA

When tragedy strikes people gather. Some to offer words to console, some because they feel drawn to share in the grief and others to help in any way they can.

Members of the Canadian Coast Guard Cape Fox tow the overturned fishing boat to shore in Lark Harbour Thursday evening. — Photo by Diane Crocker/The Western Star

That’s exactly what happened in Lark Harbour, the small community at the end of the south shore of the Bay of Islands, on Thursday evening.

Hours earlier one man lost his life and three others were rescued after the boat they were in capsized while crab fishing near Little Port.

About 10 people, mostly men, gathered around the Canadian Coast Guard Lifeboat Station in Lark Harbour.

They waited as personnel from a Corner Brook funeral home removed the man’s body from the Canadian Coast Guard vessel the Cape Fox.

Once the body was removed, the men set about to do what they had come for.

“We’re going to get the boat now in a minute if they mind to give her to us,” said one man.

The overturned boat floated bottom up near the wharf where it had been towed to earlier in the day by the Cape Fox.

The man said one of the four fishermen was from Benoit’s Cove and the others from the McIver’s-Cox’s Cove area.

Like the others present he didn’t want to be named or interviewed.

“People here on the beach is all you call us, my love,” he said.

Some of the men said they knew the owner of the boat, who was one of the three survivors that had been taken to Western Memorial Regional Hospital.

After some discussion with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Coast Guard the men were given permission to retrieve the boat.

It was decided to move it from the station to the government wharf where a hoist could be used to lift it from the water.

The crew of the Cape Fox towed the capsized boat across the harbour and then stood by to assist if needed.

Once the boat was placed up against the wharf some of the men got in a boat owned by one of the locals and drew up alongside it.

Ropes were attached and attempts made to turn it over.

By this time the government wharf was filled with close to 50 people.

About a dozen of the men grabbed hold of the rope to help turn it over. A Department of Fisheries and Oceans truck was used to assist the effort.

As the boat turned over the men in the nearby boat reached into the water to remove a stool and a cooler that started to float out. Other items, including a glove, floated in the water.

Once the boat was righted the focus shifted to pumping out the water to enable the 25-foot boat to be lifted. A truck and trailer was parked off the wharf that would take the boat home.

The vessel had overturned about three nautical miles north-west of Little Port around noon while the crew were hauling crab pots.

A spokesperson with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said fisheries officers were conducting a routine patrol in that area when they came upon an overturned boat with four people in the water.

“Fisheries officers rescued three survivors and recovered one deceased individual,” said the spokesperson.

Two of the survivors and the body of the deceased person had been located near the boat.

Maj. Martell Thompson of the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax, said it was from the first two survivors that rescuers learned there was another missing person.

A may day was issued and the centre tasked a Cormorant helicopter from Gander and a Hercules from Greenwood, N.S.

Two local vessels, the Corrina Maria and Travestern, joined the search along with the Cape Fox and the coast guard auxiliary vessel the Western Leader.

The other crewmember was located about half an hour later, about 1.5 miles from the vessel clinging to two empty jerry cans.

Thompson said that crewmember was located just in time as hypothermia was starting to set in.

The cold water combined with him hanging on to the jerry cans being tossed about in the sea was wearing him down.

Preliminary information indicates one of the crab pots became stuck on the ocean bottom and attempts to free it caused the vessel to capsize. However, an investigation into the cause of the incident will be held.

“It could have been worse,” Thompson said. “Our hearts go out to the family, friends and crewmembers of the deceased.

“We wish them all the best as they deal with this tragic event.”

Organizations: Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Western Memorial Regional Hospital Royal Canadian Mounted Police Joint Rescue Co Western Leader

Geographic location: Lark Harbour, Little Port, Newfoundland Western Star Bay of Islands Corner Brook Halifax

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