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

Just Posted

First responders on scene at Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh School south of Nanaimo on Thursday afternoon. (Karl Yu/The News Bulletin)
One child airlifted after quad accident at Nanaimo district school

First responders called to Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh School at around 3:30 p.m.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control maps showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 4-10. (BCCDC image)
Parksville-Qualicum passes Nanaimo in new COVID-19 cases

B.C. Centre for Disease Control reports 65 new cases in Oceanside health area April 4-10

A nearly four-hour standoff at an apartment complex on Cowichan Lake Road in Duncan ended peacefully on Wednesday, April 14. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Officers surround building as homeowner held in apartment for nearly four hours by adult son

Pacific Institution in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media file photo)
Inmate with ties to Victoria dies in Abbotsford institution

Brodie Bingley, who was sentenced for aggravated assault in Maple Ridge died April 13

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The Baynes Sound Connector leaves Denman Island en route to Buckley Bay. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Baynes Sound Connector undergoing upgrades

The MV Quinitsa is providing service between Buckley Bay and Denman Island

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Quatse, the abandoned sea otter pup who was rescued in Port Hardy. (Marine Mammal Rescue Centre photo)
Quatse the sea otter pup continues to recover in treatment

Quatse’s last “pupdate” was on March 31, where it was noted she is “doing well and gaining weight.”

Hwy. 4 was shut down in both directions for 10 hours on March 23 as a rock bluff was blasted as part of Kennedy Hill’s ongoing construction. Commuters can expect five more 10 hour closures on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 28. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Five 10-hour Pacific Rim highway closures planned in the next 6 weeks

Closures needed for rock blasting as part of the Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

Most Read