A Canadian Forces CH-149 Cormorant helicopter flies past the Olympic cauldron as it burns during Canada Day festivities in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday July 1, 2010. The owner of a scallop trawler that caught fire at sea south of Yarmouth, N.S., Tuesday night says all crew members are safely off the boat. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A Canadian Forces CH-149 Cormorant helicopter flies past the Olympic cauldron as it burns during Canada Day festivities in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday July 1, 2010. The owner of a scallop trawler that caught fire at sea south of Yarmouth, N.S., Tuesday night says all crew members are safely off the boat. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

U.S., Canadian rescue effort saves 31 people before ship sinks in stormy Atlantic

Ocean Choice said an investigation into what caused the fire will begin in the coming days

Canadian and American rescuers are describing a tightly choreographed effort in heaving Atlantic seas that saved 31 seafarers early Wednesday before an offshore scallop dragger sank off Nova Scotia.

The hoisting of the crew aboard the 39-metre FV Atlantic Destiny onto helicopters began late Tuesday night and extended into the next morning after the ship caught fire at sea south of Yarmouth, N.S.

Lt.-Cmdr. Edward Forys, commander of a United States Coast Guard fixed-wing aircraft that flew above the scene, outlined the close co-operation of the two countries in the frightening seas.

“It (the Atlantic Destiny) was taking on water when we arrived and they didn’t have any power or ability to steer,” Forys said Wednesday in an interview from the coast guard base in Cape Cod, Mass. “So they were bobbing in the water and it was imperative we started to get people off that ship.”

He estimated that winds were gusting from the northwest at more than 90 kilometres per hour, with sea swells of between five to seven metres pitching the stricken ship up and down as the hoists were lowered.

The lieutenant-commander said that at first, Canadian Forces CH-149 Cormorant helicopter lowered two of its search and rescue technicians on board the floundering vessel. He said the Cormorant carried out the first hoists, followed by lifts conducted by two American Jayhawk helicopters, with a total of 27 people brought into the rescue aircraft.

The 43-year-old officer said it was the most hoists during one incident he’s witnessed in his 13-year career with the coast guard.

Each time the basket came down to lift up crew, the two Canadian search and rescue technicians on board would help them strap in, as the teams from the two countries communicated by radio and international hand signals, Forys said.

As this was going on, the American and Canadian fixed-wing aircraft were relaying information from the helicopters back to command centres on shore to provide updates on the condition of the survivors and indicate where they needed to be taken.

Lt.-Cmdr. Brian Owens of the search and rescue co-ordination centre in Halifax, confirmed the Atlantic Destiny sank at 10:36 a.m. Wednesday morning after succumbing to damage it sustained in the fire. Owens said 27 crew members were taken to Yarmouth by the three helicopter crews during the night, where they received medical attention, food and accommodations.

The remaining crew members, as well as two search and rescue technicians who were on board, were transferred at about 8 a.m. from the fishing vessel to the Canadian Coast Guard ship Cape Roger, Owens said, adding that they were on their way to shore on Wednesday afternoon.

The rescue co-ordination centre said it had received a call from the ship around 8 p.m. Tuesday night reporting there was a fire on board and that it had lost power and was taking on water as it drifted in the rough seas and powerful winds.

Ocean Choice, the owner of the ship, said other offshore fishing vessels, including the Cape LaHave, Maude Adams and the Atlantic Protector, took part in the rescue effort. “They’re professional seamen and we have an experienced captain and crew members that handled this incredibly well,” Ocean Choice CEO Martin Sullivan said in an interview Wednesday.

“The collective efforts of our crew and all those who came to assist the crew and the vessel resulted in the best possible outcome for this situation,” Blaine Sullivan, the president of Ocean Choice, said in a statement. “We are sincerely thankful to everyone that helped ensure that every single crew member is safe and accounted for.”

Ocean Choice said an investigation into what caused the fire will begin in the coming days, adding that no injuries were reported as a result of the fire. The company said the Atlantic Destiny, one of six of its offshore fishing vessels, harvests and freezes sea scallops. Its home port is Riverport, N.S.

The Atlantic Destiny was involved in a similar incident in 2017 when its main engine broke down, causing a blackout on the ship while it was southwest of Nova Scotia. No injuries were reported.

Martin Sullivan said the trawler had a major overhaul about a year ago and the ship was signed off by a classification society, which inspects and certifies vessels on behalf of Transport Canada.

Meanwhile, Forys said the teams returning from the international rescue were tired but satisfied by Wednesday’s outcome. “This is a major case,” the lieutenant-commander said. “This is one of the search and rescue cases you’ll remember.”

ALSO READ: ‘Vaccine, vaccine’: Dolly sings ‘Jolene’ rewrite before shot

— With files from Sarah Smellie in St. John’s, N.L.

— — —

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Michael Tutton and Danielle Edwards, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

rescueUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Most Read