Nfld. & Labrador

3 generations of 1 family involved in Cape Spear fishing tragedy

Search and rescue officials still hope to find two people alive after two bodies and a boat that sank near St. John's harbour were recovered in the Cape Spear area, in an incident that has touched three generations of fishermen.

Man, his son, grandson and friend were on boat when it went missing near St. John's harbour, friend tells CBC

Two fishermen missing from sunken Cape Spear boat

5 years ago
Duration 0:34
Search and rescue crews are back on the water Wednesday, looking to find two fishermen still missing from a sunken boat near Cape Spear. The boat was brought back to shore Wednesday evening. 0:34

Search and rescue officials still hope to find two people alive after recovering two bodies and a boat that sank near St. John's harbour in an incident that has touched three generations of fishermen.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax updated reporters on Wednesday about the four fishermen who were aboard a 6-metre fishing boat when it sank off the coast of Cape Spear.

"Two bodies were recovered yesterday afternoon. The vessel was located this morning," said Maj. Rhonda Stevens. "But right now the search efforts continue with the hopes of successfully finding these two fishermen."

Search and Rescue operators brief reporters on boat accident

5 years ago
Duration 2:10
Master Warrant Officer Tim Eagle and Maj. Rhonda Stevens speak to reporters at a JRCC briefing in Halifax Wednesday afternoon. 2:10

Eugene Walsh, his son Keith Walsh Sr. and grandson Keith Walsh Jr., as well as family friend Bill Humby, were on the boat that ran into trouble in Freshwater Bay on Tuesday, friend Terry Ryan confirmed to CBC.

Family members sounded the alarm when they didn't return home on schedule, according to Maj. Stevens. She said the crew left early in the morning, and usually returned about mid-day.

Stevens and Master Warrant Officer Tim Eagle told reporters that two bodies were found Tuesday afternoon at different points, but in the general vicinity of fishing gear near Cape Spear.

The men had personal flotation devices on board the boat, Stevens said, but she could not confirm whether any of the men were wearing them.

Eagle added the boat was underwater when search and rescue crews arrived Tuesday night, which made it harder to find.

'Good guys who united a community'

"Keith Walsh (Sr.) and Billy Humby were very good friends," Ryan said. 

"They were real close friends of mine," he said, adding that Keith Walsh's garage was a community hangout.

"Just two nights ago we were watching America's Got Talent. He had a little pool table he just bought. If I dropped up by there for an hour, I knew I'd see a bunch of friends."

Ryan said the men were "good guys who united a community" in Shea Heights.

"They were just positive to be around," he said.

Terry Ryan says he spent 'hundreds of hours' on the water with friends Keith Walsh, Sr., (top left) and Bill Humby (top right) of Shea Heights. (Terry Ryan)

Investigators on the way

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said Wednesday afternoon that it is deploying a team of investigators to St. John's.

The coast guard vessel Sir Wilfred Grenfell was seen returning to the harbour around 10:30 a.m., carrying a small vessel on board. 

​Late Tuesday night, a coast guard vessel returned to base on Southside Road. It was met by two hearses, which were seen leaving the wharf more than an hour later. 

More than 100 people huddled under blankets near the Fort Amherst wharf and awaited word on the missing men.

A close-up image of a small boat on the deck of the Sir Wilfred Grenfell coast guard ship Wednesday morning. (CBC)

Air searches were stalled overnight due to poor visibility, but resumed Wednesday morning as weather conditions improved. 

No unusual weather

Stevens said there were moderate winds on Tuesday, but no unusually bad weather or storms. She said there were many boats out in the area throughout the day.

"Definitely a day that was conducive to fishing," she explained.

According to CBC meteorologist Ryan Snoddon, a Memorial University buoy located just north of Cape Spear could be a good indication of water conditions in the area.

He said the buoy recorded gusts of 50 to 60 km/h throughout the day, and the maximum wave height was recorded at two metres.

"I spoke to one fisherman that told me, if the boat did venture east of the point at Cape Spear, it would have likely encountered larger waves than what this buoy recorded," Snoddon said.

Survival 'very difficult'

Talking to reporters at the JRCC briefing, Eagle explained that survival in the Atlantic Ocean is "very difficult," especially without a survival suit on.

"If they find something to float on, or they can get their body out of the water, then the amount of time they can spend can become a lot more," he said.

A Cormorant helicopter from Gander, a Hercules aircraft from Greenwood, N.S., several fishing boats and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary have been assisting Coast Guard in the search.

First responders searching for missing fishermen near Cape Spear

5 years ago
Duration 0:46
First responders, including a number of private fishing vessels, are looking for two overdue fisherman near Cape Spear. The bodies of two other fisherman were found Tuesday night. 0:46

With files from Mark Quinn and Jeremy Eaton