UPDATE: Mounties reach out to the military as pressure mounts for salvage operation

The Canadian Press
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George Hopkins displays a map as talks about the decision to call off the search for the crew of the missing fishing boat Miss Ally in Woods Harbour, N.S. on Wednesday. Hopkins son Joel was one of the five young fishermen on the ill-fated vessel that capsized off the Nova Scotia coast. — Photo by Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

WOODS HARBOUR, N.S. — The RCMP have asked the Defence Department for help as the Mounties face mounting pressure from a Nova Scotia community demanding the recovery of a capsized boat that could contain the bodies of five young fishermen.

An RCMP spokesman in Woods Harbour, N.S., said Thursday the Mounties are now waiting for approval from Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Nova Scotia’s representative in the federal cabinet.

But some in the community were not content to wait any longer.

The father of one of the missing fishermen said a private boat with four divers aboard left from the Halifax area to find the capsized 13-metre boat.

“So we’ve decided we don’t want to wait any longer,” said George Hopkins. “This boat could sink. There’s nothing guaranteed and it’s afloat right now, so we’re going to search for it.”

He said other fishermen near his home in Woods Harbour were also getting ready to join the search for the Miss Ally, which flipped over in rough seas Sunday night. One fishing boat, the Lady Faith, left Thursday afternoon from the area.

“We’re not forcing anybody’s hand to do it,” he said in an interview. “I’ve had lots of calls from people wanting to do it.”

Hopkins, whose son Joel was aboard the vessel, says the community can’t wait for the RCMP or the military to take action because the partially submerged boat could sink at any time.

Federal search and rescue officials have said it was up to the RCMP to decide what to do because the case was handed to the Mounties when the search for the men was called off Tuesday.

Maj. Martell Thompson, spokesman for the military’s Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax, said a military aircraft has been dispatched to the area to determine whether the Miss Ally was still afloat.

The military confirmed that the boat’s upturned yellow hull was last spotted by the coast guard on Wednesday afternoon.

Nova Scotia Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau, a former fisherman who represents the area, says he has approached federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield to determine whether a salvage operation is feasible.

“I asked him to consult with his cabinet colleagues and review his options,” he said in Woods Harbour. “I am just bringing the concerns of the community to him.”

Erin Filliter, a spokeswoman for Ashfield, said the RCMP was in charge of the file.

“We do leave this type of decision-making to experts,” she said. “Currently this is an RCMP investigation, so at this time it would be led by the RCMP.”

Pastor Phil Williams at the Calvary United Baptist church in Lower Woods Harbour said the community has rallied behind the families’ call for a salvage operation.

“I would venture to say that if you took a poll you would have 110 per cent,” he said in an interview. “(We) want Miss Ally brought up at all costs, expense, whatever. It’s essential for peace and closure.”

Pierre Murray, regional manager of operations for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said a team of investigators arrived in Woods Harbour on Wednesday.

Murray said they plan to review communications between the crew and family members, friends and search and rescue officials.

Hopkins has said he was in touch with the crew shortly before its water-activated emergency locator beacon went off just after 11 p.m. Sunday.

The Miss Ally was on an extended halibut fishing trip when it ran into heavy weather — 10-metre seas and winds approaching hurricane strength.

Murray said the safety board’s investigators will also look at the boat’s stability assessments, construction and inspections as well as the crew’s experience and training. The vessel was built in 2006 and had to be inspected every five years.

“We’re going to try to find out what was going on, what type of weather they were experiencing, if the boat was damaged or if it was taking on water,” he said from Halifax.

“The difficulty is that we don’t have a boat and we don’t have survivors, so what we can do is try to get as much as we can right now.”

Murray said the independent agency once recovered a small fishing boat from the bottom of the Bay of Fundy to help with their investigation into a sinking that claimed four lives. But he stressed that conditions were more favourable then.

“It was a bit different from going out there in the open sea and trying to recover a boat,” he said.

In January 2004, the 9.7-metre Lo-Da-Kash, based in Maces Bay, N.B., was heading back from Campobello Island when it sank with four people on board. The Transportation Safety Board conducted a dive on the vessel in May 2004 and it was raised to the surface four months later and towed to shore.

— With files from Michael MacDonald

 

 

•••

(Earlier story)

The Canadian Press — Woods Harbour, N.S.

The pressure is mounting on Ottawa to retrieve a capsized fishing vessel off southwest Nova Scotia that may contain the bodies of five missing fishermen.

The fathers of two of the fishermen, Stephen Nickerson and George Hopkins, say the 13-metre Miss Ally could also contain answers as to why the boat from Woods Harbour, N.S., rolled over Sunday night.

Nova Scotia Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau, a former fisherman who represents the area, says he has approached federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield to determine whether a salvage operation is feasible.

“I asked him to consult with his cabinet colleagues and review his options,” he said in Woods Harbour. “I am just bringing the concerns of the community to him.”

Some fishermen in Woods Harbour say they will use their own boats to find the partially submerged vessel unless the navy or the coast guard take action.

Pastor Phil Williams at the Calvary United Baptist church in Lower Woods Harbour said the community has rallied behind the families’ call for a salvage operation.

“I would venture to say that if you took a poll you would have 110 per cent,” he said in an interview. “(We) want Miss Ally brought up at all costs, expense, whatever. It’s essential for peace and closure.”

Federal search and rescue officials say it’s up to the RCMP to decide what to do because the case was handed to the Mounties when the search for the men was called off Tuesday.

Nickerson, whose son Cole is among the missing men, said the RCMP have told him they are setting up a command post in Woods Harbour.

“We’re still trying to get them to go out there and look in the boat,” Nickerson said. “I’m just leaving the house to get some more information now.”

Pierre Murray, regional manager of operations for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said a team of investigators arrived in Woods Harbour on Wednesday.

Murray said they plan to review communications between the crew and family members, friends and search and rescue officials.

Hopkins, who lost his son Joel in the capsizing, has said he was in touch with the crew shortly before its water-activated emergency locator beacon went off just after 11 p.m. Sunday.

The Miss Ally was on an extended halibut fishing trip when it ran into heavy weather — 10-metre seas and winds approaching hurricane strength.

Murray said the safety board’s investigators will also look at the boat’s stability assessments, construction and inspections as well as the crew’s experience and training. The vessel was built in 2006 and had to be inspected every five years.

“We’re going to try to find out what was going on, what type of weather they were experiencing, if the boat was damaged or if it was taking on water,” he said from Halifax.

“The difficulty is that we don’t have a boat and we don’t have survivors, so what we can do is try to get as much as we can right now.”

Murray said the independent agency once recovered a small fishing boat from the bottom of the Bay of Fundy to help with their investigation into a sinking that claimed four lives. But he stressed that conditions were more favourable then.

“It was a bit different from going out there in the open sea and trying to recover a boat,” he said.

In January 2004, the 9.7-metre Lo-Da-Kash, based in Maces Bay, N.B., was heading back from Campobello Island when it sank with four people on board. The Transportation Safety Board conducted a dive on the vessel in May 2004 and it was raised to the surface four months later and towed to shore.

Organizations: Canadian Press, RCMP, Transportation Safety Board of Canada Calvary United Baptist church

Geographic location: Lower Woods Harbour, Nova Scotia, Ottawa Halifax Bay of Fundy Maces Bay Campobello Island

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Recent comments

  • Gerald fron St Brides nl
    February 23, 2013 - 14:14

    what is it with this word FEASIBLE ? we send millions to aid in situations in foreign countries , we can come or go from a sports fishing in a military chopper ,but we ask is it feasible to try and recover the bodies of these beloved fishermen . GET WITH IT .

  • Fred from Brigus
    February 21, 2013 - 17:12

    Can't believe that this is taking place in Canada. All these high paid brass and not one can make a simple decision to do the right thing. Get off ya asses boys and get cracking. Get the job done and bring the boys home if they are retrievable. If this was a boat of immigrants out there everyone would be breaking their necks to get going. What a disgrace. I'm ashamed to say I am Canadian

  • Concerned Citizen
    February 21, 2013 - 15:24

    I read and listen to the news daily to keep up to date on what is going on in our province and country. It is so frustrating to listen to the daily political BS everywhere. As a mother of two small children, I try my very best to raise them to have respect for themselves, for others and for the law. I teach them the difference between right and wrong and hope they will treat others the way they would like to be treated. After reading an article today about parents of a hockey league causing such a uproar because of a silly jersey, and parents harrassing the volunteers over a sport that is meant to be fun for their children. This whole story seems to be about power....who has the most authority and the final say!!! very sad. Then this article about the Department of Defence saying it is in the RCMP hands now!!!! REALLY???? So everyone passes the buck and nobody will man up and take some friggin responsibility!!!! There are four men missing and all the officials can do is go back and forth to who's decision it is to make a call. What has the world come to? It is all about politics and power!!! Not a nice message to send to the youth. I sometimes wonder why I brought children into this world.