nl-calvert-harbour-915_1

Calvert, Newfoundland, was the homeport of the Sea Gypsy fishing vessel that sank Sept. 12. ((CBC))

The shrimp fishing boat that sank off the coast of Newfoundland on Saturday was dangerously overloaded, a fisherman who almost died in the incident says.

Jimmy Kavanagh, of Cape Broyle, N.L., was one of three fishermen who were rescued more than 130 kilometres east of St. John's when the Sea Gypsy sank over the weekend.

A fourth crewmember, Robert Keough, 58, of Calvert, N.L., died at sea. The body of a fifth fisherman has not been found.

"[The Sea Gypsy] was overloaded — bottom line, overloaded," Kavanagh said. "Our luck just ran out."

The shrimp season started late because fishermen and processors couldn't agree on a price for shrimp at the beginning of the summer.

And because the price of fuel is high and the price of shrimp is low, Kavanagh said, shrimp fishing captains and boat owners are filling boats beyond safe limits.

"We have no say — the crew," he said, adding the decision to decide on load limits is made by the skipper and the boat's owner. 

Saturday, after nearly a week at sea, the Sea Gypsy was heading back to shore with its hold full of shrimp.

Kavanagh said she had taken on dangerously heavy loads before and got away with it.

The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating to determine whether the Sea Gypsy was overloaded and whether rescue officials responded quickly enough.

Kavanagh is back at home with his wife and two girls but he said his troubles aren't over.

"I can't sleep in the night time. I'm up before five o'clock. I goes to bed one o'clock, two o'clock, two-thirty. I just can't sleep. I'm thinking about my buddy. He's gone. They can't find him. I want to find him."

Kavanagh has fished more than 20 years — starting when he was a teenager —  but now he's not sure he'll ever fish again.