Fishing boat was on autopilot prior to collision, TSB investigation says

An investigation into the two-boat collision which resulted in two deaths in June has revealed that one of the vessels was on autopilot at the time of the crash.

Justin MacKay, 20, and Chris Melanson, 59, previously identified as 2 men who died

As the buoy line was being recovered, the investigation reads, the master of Joel '98 and the crew aboard Forever Chasin' Tail noticed they were about to collide. (John Robertson/CBC)

An investigation into the two-boat collision which resulted in two deaths in June, has revealed that one of the vessels was on autopilot at the time of the crash.

The investigation into the collision off Beach Point, P.E.I., was conducted by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

The following is the summary of the investigation from the TSB.

According to the investigation summary, on June 9 the fishing vessel Forever Chasin' Tail, with three people on board, departed Beach Point to haul lobster traps about 14 nautical miles (nm) out.

Later that morning, a second fishing vessel, Joel '98, with five people on board, also left Beach Point to haul traps about six nautical miles out.

After hauling and setting all their traps, the master of Forever Chasin' Tail set the automatic pilot to steer a course toward the entrance to Beach Point Harbour, the summary reads. Meanwhile, the crew aboard Joel '98 continued to haul and reset traps while "all attention was focused" on a particular marker buoy on the starboard side of the boat.

The wharf at Beach Point was marked off with police tape following the collision. (Alistair MacCormick/CBC)

As the buoy line was being recovered, the summary reads, the master of Joel '98 and the crew aboard Forever Chasin' Tail noticed they were about to collide.

"With no time for either vessel to manoeuvre, the Forever Chasin' Tail collided with the Joel '98 4.8 nm east-northeast of Murray Head, P.E.I.," the summary says.

Forever Chasin' Tail came to rest on top of the deck of the Joel '98 and, as the Joel '98 began to sink, two of its crew members and one passenger climbed aboard Forever Chasin' Tail.

According to the investigation report, "The remaining crew member and passenger from the Joel '98 were found floating at the surface on the port side of the Forever Chasin' Tail as it floated free of the sinking vessel." 

Justin MacKay, 20, died following the boating incident off Beach Point, P.E.I. (Ferguson-Logan Funeral Home)

Both the crew member and passenger were recovered by Forever Chasin' Tail and another vessel that came to assist and both were pronounced dead by first responders at Beach Point.

Justin MacKay, 20, from P.E.I., and 59-year-old Chris Melanson, from N.S., were previously identified as the two men that died.

The Joel '98 remained partly submerged for several hours and later sank while under tow by another fishing vessel. The Forever Chasin' Tail was undamaged, the investigation said.​

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