Nfld. & Labrador

3 bodies recovered, 1 still missing in search for family of fishermen near St. Lawrence

The Canadian Coast Guard confirmed Tuesday the body of a third fisherman was found late Tuesday morning, as a search and rescue mission continued for one other man.

The father, son, nephew and family friend went missing while fishing crab

The Canadian Coast Guard has recovered the body of a third fisherman who went missing near Placentia Bay. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

The Canadian Coast Guard has recovered the body of a third fisherman missing off the coast of St. Lawrence, N.L., and crews are still searching for one other missing man.

One man's body was found at 4:15 a.m. local time on Tuesday, the second man's body was found at 11:15 a.m., and the third man's body was found at 11:40 a.m. 

The four men went missing in the mouth of Placentia Bay, off the southeast coast of Newfoundland, after leaving from St. Lawrence shortly after midnight Sunday to fish crab. They were due back before 8 p.m. Monday evening, but they did not arrive.

When the Canadian Coast Guard's Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John's was called at 7:58 p.m., it worked with the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax to dispatch multiple aircraft and vessels, along with local volunteers, all of which searched through the night. 

'Just there for each other'

Mayor Paul Pike said three of the men are in the same family — father, son and nephew — and the other man is a family friend. Pike went to school with the father, and the other three are Pike's former students. 

Search efforts have focused Tuesday on an area of ocean near St. Lawrence. (CBC )

"St. Lawrence is a community that's faced many tragedies over the years. We have a very rich history, but we also have a very sad history as well. And we certainly are going to continue with that same resolve to help each other through this," Pike said Tuesday, noting the community's mining and fishing histories have brought their share of hardships. 

"It's hard to verbalize what we're feeling here today."

Pike said the close-knit town of 1,200 people is in a very sombre mood, but grateful for the outpouring of help in the search from people all along the Burin Peninsula. 

"We're just there for each other to offer support in any way we can, and that's how we survive." 

St. Lawrence Mayor Paul Pike said the men are well known within the community of 1,200. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Judy Foote, the province's lieutenant governor, issued a message of comfort to the community in a news release Tuesday evening. 

"Hearts are breaking today in St. Lawrence with the sad loss at sea of three of the town's residents while the search is ongoing for the fourth fisherman. I share in the heartbreak with the people of St. Lawrence," Foote said.

"While the community of 1,200 in our province has known tragedy over the years, all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians feel the pain when others among us suffer the loss of loved ones, unexpectedly and tragically. Tragedies at sea are not uncommon in Newfoundland and Labrador and whenever they occur we come together to offer support, love, and prayers."

Keith Sullivan, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union in Newfoundland and Labrador, told CBC Radio's The Broadcast it has been a sombre day across the province. 

The FFAW represents 15,000 members, most of whom are in the fishing industry.

"We've certainly been talking to people and trying to find out the latest with the rescue and everything. I know there's a lot of thoughts and prayers sent to the families at this moment," he said. 

Search and rescue effort continues

Search and rescue Supt. Harvey Vardy said conditions have been favourable for their operation, and they're focused on finding the remaining crew member. 

"We spoke to other fishermen — there were several vessels that went out from St. Lawrence yesterday and they have returned. There is no real indication that the weather was a factor in this situation," Vardy told CBC News Tuesday afternoon. 

St. Lawrence Mayor Paul Pike said the close-knit town of 1,200 people was in a very sombre mood on Tuesday, but they are grateful for the outpouring of help with the search from people all along the Burin Peninsula.  (Garrett Barry/CBC)

He said there was safety equipment on board their 35-foot fishing vessel, the Sarah Anne, though none of the bodies recovered were wearing life-jackets. 

"From that, we anticipate that whatever did occur happened very rapidly," said Vardy. 

By Tuesday afternoon, the coast guard said the MCTS Placentia, CCGS W. Jackman, CCGS Ann Harvey, Oceanex Connaigra, multiple aircraft from the Department of National Defence and Provincial Airlines, along with multiple coast guard auxiliary members and volunteer vessels from the area were involved in the search. 

"We found some debris in the water, and obviously the crew member, so we know whatever happened is tragic and probably happened quickly," Mark Gould, the regional supervisor at the Maritime Rescue Sub Centre in St. John's, said Tuesday morning after the first body was recovered.

"We'll search until we've exhausted all measures and possibilities."

Gould later said there is a plan to continue the search for the fourth man into Tuesday evening. He said software is being used to map the drift of the ocean and buoys to measure the current. 

By Tuesday night, he said, some of the searchers who have been on location for 24 hours will be needing to get some rest.

"But, we're going to keep searching with everything we have available until we've exhausted all means that we have."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Patrick Butler, Garrett Barry, Anthony Germain and Carolyn Stokes

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