The father of a missing fisherman at sea asks boats from southern Labrador and northern Newfoundland to join in the search for his son and a second crew member.
The two-person crew on board Lady of the island was scheduled to land at Mary’s Harbor around 5:00 p.m. Friday.
At around 6:30 p.m. that night, Dwight Russell checked his son Marc’s Facebook Messenger account to see if he was showing him active and online.
“I usually check with this account every day just to make sure it’s home,” he said. “I started to worry because I called home and he hadn’t come to ship his fish. That’s when I had a hunch something was going on.”
Russell himself was on the water. His boat had encountered problems and was being towed by a trawler, but he contacted friends who immediately went out to begin the search in their own vessels, just before dark.
“They searched all night,” Russell said. “Some of them left yesterday and have never returned.”
The Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) and the Canadian Coast Guard have several helicopters and boats looking for the couple.
460 square nautical miles sought
According to the JRCC, at 6:00 p.m. (NT) on Saturday, the search had covered 460 square nautical miles, with high-probability areas repeatedly searched.
There are plans to expand the search area overnight and continue efforts until Sunday.
Russell said he alerted the Coast Guard when he called his friends to begin the search.
According to Public Affairs Officer Lt.-Cmdr. Brian Owens, JRCC first learned Lady of the island late around 8 p.m. NT Friday, after the St. John’s Marine Rescue Sub-Center – a JRCC substation – heard radio traffic from local fishing crews already searching the area.
From there, he said, a Hercules plane and a Cormorant helicopter were quickly dispatched from 14 Wing Greenwood in Nova Scotia and 9 Wing Gander. Two Coast Guard vessels were dispatched to the area and an emergency broadcast was made by Labrador Coast Guard Radio.
Owens confirmed the search area was expanded on Saturday morning and more resources were added to the effort, including the factory freezer trawler on Osprey III, Coast Guard icebreaker Captain Molly Kool, a Griffon helicopter from 5 Wing Goose Bay, aircraft from PAL Airlines, and another aircraft from Nova Scotia equipped with thermal signature equipment.
Local fishermen continue to contribute to the effort.
“Currently, the weather is not so favorable for visual search,” Owens said.
Wave heights have been reduced from four meters to three meters, but fog and a low cloud ceiling present challenges, he said.
“It just forces us to be even more vigilant as we fly over the area and look into the water,” Owens said.
“But these crews are professionals, they are used to these conditions and are trained in multiple conditions like this. So it’s just a matter of taking our time and proceeding with known research techniques in order to build a picture. so that we can eventually find these individuals.
The weather should improve on Sunday
Russell and the JRCC both said weather conditions are expected to improve on Sunday.
“We can do a lot more,” said Russell. “I want to reach out to all my friends no matter where you are from, northern Newfoundland or southern Labrador, if you can help or help with the search, I think tomorrow will be a critical day, if we don’t find Marc and his friend tonight. “
Thanks to emergency services, Russell was able to learn that Marc had used his satellite phone to call the local fish processing plant at 4:14 p.m. Friday. According to Russell, the connection was too distorted for the person at the fish plant to understand who was calling or what was being said.
They made another call three minutes later and from that call, Russell said, they were able to determine the crew’s position – right next to Battle Harbor.
According to the JRCC, the Lady of the island is a Cape Islander style open hull fishing boat. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police say the boat was equipped with a VHF radio and two outboard motors.
The aircraft involved in the search will rotate for fuel and crew rest, but the JRCC will try to maintain a constant presence, searching for different models to try to locate the vessel, according to Owens.
Asked about the number of resources attached to the search for Lady of the island and the crew, Owen said “in this case some of the determining factors [are] the location, the time it was reported late and, in addition, the weather conditions at the time.
“When we have the resources available and the controllers at the center determine that more assets are needed, we will put the right amount of media into it,” he said.
The missing fishermen come from communities on the south coast of Labrador, near where they were fishing for cod.
Owens confirmed that there had been two reports of flares sighted overnight. He said both incidents were investigated and nothing was found. It is possible, he said, that flares will be fired from ships or research planes in order to illuminate an area.
The boat left Mary’s Harbor around 6 a.m. on Friday. RCMP say they were informed of the situation around 9:30 p.m.
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