Placentia Bay Tragedy: Bodies of Three Crab Fishermen Recovered Near Bar Haven

Three Newfoundland snow crab fishermen died following an accident in western Placentia Bay, near Davis Cove, June 16.

The men had been reported missing around 7 p.m. when they failed to return home after a fishing trip.

Tuesday night was windy and cloudy, which made for extremely difficult flying conditions for the Cormorant helicopter dispatched from the Search and Rescue Centre in Gander to search for the fishermen.

Maj. Rhonda Stevens, of the Search and Rescue Centre in Halifax, told TC Media that the ceiling was just 200-300 feet and the winds increased throughout the evening as the aircraft scanned the bay for a sign of the 23-foot open speed boat and crew.

Stevens confirmed that a family member alerted the coast guard.

She said the men, two of which were from the Southern Harbour/Arnold’s Cove area, did have cellphones but there was no call for help from the boat and the coast guard could not make contact with them.

“The Cormorant was operating at extremely low levels due to the cloud level,” she said.

A Hercules fixed-wing aircraft was also dispatched from Greenwood, she said, “but weather wasn’t co-operating for visual search. So they conducted a radar search and then returned to Greenwood.”

On the water, the fishing vessel Lisa Marie, with its Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers, also helped in the search through Tuesday night and into the morning.

“We also had the coast guard vessel the Corporal McLaren, and last night we tasked the HMCS Shawinigan, which is a naval vessel based out of Halifax. They were on the Burin Peninsula so we asked them to assist,” Stevens said.

The tanker American Spirit was also in Placentia Bay at the time, and was called on to help, she said.

“We asked if they could use their radar equipment to target any objects that might be in the water in the bay.”

People from the fishermen’s home community and family members, were also out searching for the men.

The body of one of the men was located early Wednesday morning around 7:30 a.m., while the second body was located at 10 a.m. The third man’s body was recovered around 1 p.m.

Joint Task Force Atlantic tweeted that at least two of the men found were not wearing survival suits or personal flotation devices.

Southern Harbour Mayor Joe Brewer told CBC that he felt small-boat crab harvesting regulations might have played a factor in the tragedy.

“In these open boats, if you’re out and you’re hauling the crab gear in an open boat and if the wind comes up pretty strong, the gear could have hooked in the bottom, could have capsized the boat, or the winds [could have] come up and she could have took on water.”

“Crab quotas that he had, there’s certain size of boat you’re allowed to use and unfortunately his bigger boat couldn’t catch the quota of his smaller boat, he couldn’t fish into his bigger boat so he had no other choice,” said Brewer.

The investigation into the tragedy is ongoing.

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