Nova Scotia

Paq'tnkek Mi'kmaw Nation mourns 2 young men after fishing boat capsized

Ozzy Clair and Niko Clair died after their fishing boat capsized Monday afternoon near Bayfield, N.S. RCMP say a woman was rescued and taken to hospital.

Crisis team brought in to help Paq'tnkek community deal with fishing deaths

Ozzy Clair, left, and Niko Clair, right, died after the fishing boat they were aboard capsized off Bayfield, N.S. (Facebook)

The chief of Paq'tnkek Mi'kmaw Nation says the two fishermen who died Monday afternoon after their boat capsized in waters off Nova Scotia's Antigonish County were both young fathers who were "loved by the community."

The pair, identified on the Paq'tnkek Facebook page as cousins Ozzy Clair and Niko Clair, had been out in an oyster fishing boat in rough waters near Bayfield when someone called 911 around 3 p.m., according to RCMP.

A woman who had also been on board was rescued and taken to hospital. The three were employed by Paq'tnkek in oyster fishing and were wearing personal flotation devices, police said in a statement.

"Ozzy and Nico Clair, two young men, two fathers who contributed to our fishery, who contributed to community, loved by community, loved by many, so it's rather a shock," Paq'tnkek Chief Paul Prosper said in an interview.

Ozzy Clair, 28, had two sons. Nico Clair, 29, had one son. Both men were from Paq'tnkek.

Chief Paul Prosper of Paq'tnkek Mi'kmaw Nation said the two young men who died were both fathers who were loved by the community. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

Prosper said he's piecing together what happened from various perspectives. 

"There was clear weather, clear water and, as far as I understand, when a certain part of their journey to where they conduct the oyster operations, they hit this particular area that was rather rough and that's what capsized the boat to my knowledge," said Prosper.

Prosper said Paq'tnkek takes pride in its oyster fishery, but after the death of these men it will "take a pause."

"We'll regroup, we're a strong, proud community," he said.

Both died in hospital

One of the men was found about three metres from shore and was pulled in by a witness, police said. RCMP said he was alive at that time but unresponsive. Attempts were made to revive him and he was taken to hospital by ambulance but died Monday evening. 

The second man was located by an RCMP helicopter about 60 metres from shore near the boat. He was retrieved by paramedics and firefighters but was unresponsive. He was also pronounced dead in hospital on Monday evening. 

"Our community mourns the loss of two young men today," a post on the First Nation's Facebook page said Monday.

"Prayers to their family and friends, and thank you to hospital staff, emergency and helicopter crews for their efforts, and to clergy at the hospital for the kind and compassionate support."

A followup post Tuesday morning said a crisis team from Eskasoni First Nation in Cape Breton will be at the Paq'tnkek health centre for three days to support community members in the wake of the tragedy.

Tuesday's council meeting and other band events have been cancelled.

The Nova Scotia Department of Labour said Tuesday a stop-work order has been issued in relation to the incident. A spokesperson for the department said it would be investigating the deaths.

With files from Paul Palmeter and Preston Mulligan