No bodies found in dive team's search of Miss Ally
Published Saturday, February 23, 2013 10:36AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, February 23, 2013 10:28PM EST
A local dive team did not find the remains of any of the five missing fishermen during a search of the capsized Miss Ally off the coast of Nova Scotia, RCMP announced Saturday evening.
Police said the captain of a private fishing boat, the Slave Driver, announced at about 6:10 p.m. local time that divers from his vessel “visually confirmed that no wheelhouse, or sleeping quarters were attached to the hull of the Miss Ally and that no bodies were located.”
The Canadian Coast Guard vessel Sir William Alexander, with two RCMP members on board, was to remain at the scene overnight “to provide safety and security” in the area around the capsized vessel.
“On behalf of RCMP and Department of National Defence and Canadian Coast Guard, we express our deepest sympathies to the families,” RCMP Supt. Sylvie Bourassa-Muise said in a statement.
George Hopkins, the father of missing fisherman Joel Hopkins, 27, said while the news was difficult to hear, it did give him a sense of closure.
"It wasn't the result we wanted," said the elder Hopkins.
"But for me there's closure knowing the search is over and there's no hope now of anybody being alive."
The RCMP announced earlier that a Canadian naval ship is en route to the site, and they hope to send an unmanned underwater vehicle to “gather more information and photos from the vessel.”
In a joint statement released Saturday afternoon, the RCMP, Department of National Defence and the Canadian Coast Guard said HMCS Glace Bay had departed Halifax and was expected to arrive in the area overnight. An assessment was to begin Sunday morning.
"That is simply done to confirm what the report was from the private fishing boat," Bourassa-Muise said Saturday evening. "That will conclude the efforts."
After days of fruitless searching, the RCMP in Woods Harbour, N.S. said the hull of the 13-metre boat was spotted, intact, at approximately 9:40 a.m. (AT) Saturday in the Atlantic Ocean off southwest Nova Scotia.
Conditions at sea and the position of the ship made search efforts difficult, the statement indicated.
“The over-turned Miss Ally is located 129 nautical miles South East of Halifax, where the water depth is 900 metres and combined with sea and weather conditions the location of the hull further complicates efforts to investigate the submerged portion of the hull,” the statement read.
Miss Ally, with its crew of five men under the age of 35, was on an extended halibut fishing trip when it became stranded in bad weather and capsized last Sunday.
An aerial search on Tuesday had spotted the hull floating 120 kilometres from shore but both the navy and coast guard left the area after the rescue mission had been called off that evening.
Late Thursday night, RCMP released surveillance images showing what they believed to be debris from Miss Ally’s hull, suggesting the boat had been shattered.
But on Friday, officials said the debris may actually have been items from the deck, and the hull could still be intact.
Maj. Martell Thompson, spokesperson for the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax, said once the rescue mission for the survivors was called off Tuesday at 6 p.m., the navy and coast guard pulled away from the area.
“We don’t do recovery, we do search and rescue,” Thompson told The Canadian Press in an interview.
After the search for survivors was called off, families of the fishermen asked federal authorities to recover the vessel to determine if there were bodies inside.
Hopkins said Saturday that the fact the divers did not find the wheelhouse meant the life raft was also gone.
"With the wheelhouse gone, I think things happened so fast, they didn't have a chance to get in the life-raft,” he said. “It would be false hope to continue.”
With files from The Canadian Press