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CBC Newfoundland & Labrador > Year in Review > Ryan's Commander sinking kills two

Weather hampers recovery

Date: Sept. 20, 2004
ST. JOHN'S - Poor weather has delayed the search for a fisherman missing and presumed drowned near Bonavista.

Another man's body has been recovered and four survivors released from hospital after a dramatic effort in the air and on the side of a cliff near Cape Bonavista.

Ryan's Commander debris
Debris from Ryan's Commander

The 65 ft. shrimp dragger Ryan's Commander sent a brief distress call 6:30 p.m. Sunday evening, saying it was taking on water and the six fishermen onboard were abandoning ship.

The Ryan's Commander was bound to St. Brendan's from Bay de Verde when it rolled into heavy seas as it rounded Cape Bonavista.

Clarence Peddle, co-ordinator with the Marine Search and Rescue Centre, says a half-dozen ships, as well as a military helicopter and Hercules aircraft joined the rescue effort.

Two hours later, a Cormorant helicopter was hovering over the life-raft carrying the six crew.

"It was a very difficult evacuation because we had four-metre seas as well as driving rain and poor visibility, close to 50 knot winds. We did manage to evacuate one person, the one that was most seriously affected by the incident, " he says.

A problem with the helicopter's hoist prevented rescue technicians from pulling anyone else to safety.

The helicopter crew instead flew the first man to hospital to be treated for hypothermia.

Peddle says by that time the life-raft had drifted to the base of a cliff several kilometres south of Cape Bonavista.

"The life-raft impacted on the shore and all five people were, I believe, more thrown out of the life raft as opposed to doing any kind of an orderly evacuation," says Peddle.

"They came ashore in very, very rough terrain — very rocky cliffs 60, 70 feet high and four-metre seas. That was compounded by the fact that it was beating up against the shore so all five peope were expelled from the life-raft," he says.

The crewmembers came ashore in two locations, two people in one place and two in another. The fifth is still missing and presumed drowned.

Peddle says the RCMP, local volunteers, the local fire department, search and rescue technicians and ground search and rescue had gathered at the scene. The search and rescue technicians rappelled down the side of the cliff, rescuing the first two people they located.

At the second location, searchers found two people, one who was clinging to the the rocks, and a second who had succumbed to his injuries.

Bad weather has delayed the search for the missing man. He wasn't wearing a survival suit at the time of the accident.

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