N.S. community in mourning as search for missing fishermen ends
Published Monday, February 25, 2013 12:21PM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 25, 2013 1:20PM EST
A small fishing community in southwest Nova Scotia is mourning the loss of five young fishermen after an extensive search for their bodies came to an end over the weekend.
The RCMP said Sunday that it failed to locate the men during a search of the over-turned hull of the boat, named Miss Ally, which capsized during a storm one week ago.
Authorities sent a remotely operated underwater vehicle from HMCS Glace Bay to capture photos of the 13-metre boat, which was found about 240 kilometres southeast of Halifax on Saturday. A dive team also searched the vessel Saturday with no success.
The Department of National Defence said the Miss Ally sustained substantial damage, as the wheelhouse and sleeping quarters were not attached to the vessel. No bodies were located in or around the ship.
After reviewing the photos, the Fleet Diving Unit said additional diving operations were not required.
“On behalf of the RCMP, Department of National Defence and the Coast Guard we would like to express our sincerest condolences to the families," RCMP Superintendent Sylvie Bourassa-Muise said in a statement.
On Sunday evening, the families of the fishermen met with local fishing crews and divers to thank them for their search efforts.
The families were told that it looks as if the detached wheelhouse was likely lost very quickly when giant waves started hitting the boat, capsizing it.
“According to divers, there’s a chance the men weren’t trapped inside the boat very long, or at all,” CTV Atlantic’s Kelland Sundahl reported.
The fishermen lost at sea were Joel Hopkins, Katlin Nickerson, Billy Jack Hatfield, Steven (Cole) Nickerson and Tyson Townsend. Their fishing boat got caught up in rough waves during an extended weekend fishing trip to catch halibut.
In Woods Harbour, N.S., where four of the five fishermen lived, about 500 people gathered a church on Sunday to grieve the loss of the fishermen.
“Every one of these boys was loved in this community,” said Sandy Stoddard. “And we’ve lost a part of our backbone of this community.”
A veteran fisherman, Stoddard was one of the last people to have contact with Miss Ally’s captain, 21-year-old Katlin Nickerson.
The tragedy has touched many others in the tight-knit fishing village.
“I’ve known the families, I know the mothers, the grandparents and I can’t begin to imagine what those families are going through right now,” said resident Susan Murphy.
Kenny Hatfield, uncle of Billy Jack Hatfield, said the father of three was like a son to him.
“I’ve been crying ever since it happened,” he said. “And there’s nothing I can do about it.
“I loved him and he loved me, too.”
Some in the community are also expressing frustration over how the search was handled, asking why more hadn’t been done by authorities when the capsized Miss Ally was spotted earlier in the week. The community ended up sending its own divers and crews to search the waters.
Stoddard and others are asking that the incident be reviewed.
There were no concrete details Monday about a memorial being planned for the fishermen, but details are to be made public for those in the community and across the country who wish to pay their respects.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard said an advisory has been sent out to other marine traffic indicating Miss Ally`s latest known coordinates so crews are aware of a ship floating in the ocean.
With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Garreth MacDonald
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