Body found as search continues for 5 fishermen still missing in Bay of Fundy

The body of one of the fishermen aboard a scallop vessel that went missing in the Bay of Fundy off the coast of southwestern Nova Scotia Tuesday has been found, while the search continues for the other five fishermen who were on board the boat.

The Maritime Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC) announced the news in a tweet issued at 11:03 p.m. AT.

“Our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to the family,” said the tweet. It’s unclear when the body was found or where. Next of kin have been notified.

The emergency beacon was activated for the missing vessel, Chief William Saulis, Tuesday morning. The JRCC said the emergency signal came in at 5:51 a.m. AT near Delaps Cove, N.S.

A Cormorant helicopter and a Hercules aircraft from CFB Greenwood and three coast guard ships were dispatched to help with the search, which is being hampered by bad weather.

A CP-140 Aurora Maritime Patrol Aircraft from Greenwood also joined the search Tuesday evening. JRCC said in a tweet that it will conduct infrared searches in the area.

Debris was spotted from the air around 8:22 a.m. Two life rafts washed ashore but no one was on board, said Lt.-Cmdr. Brian Owens, with the JRCC.

“We’re going to continue the search into the rest of the evening and as long as it takes to make sure that we make all possible attempts to find these individuals,” he said.

At 5 p.m. on Tuesday, he confirmed that the search would continue throughout the night.

Ground search and rescue personnel are also supporting efforts from shore.

In an interview around 3 p.m., Owens said they added additional resources.

“We certainly do hope we find them and we will continue until we don’t,” he said, adding that the sea was above two metres with winds over 30 knots from the northwest, pushing toward the shoreline.

“Certainly conditions were not favourable for smaller vessels. So it does make the searching difficult to see objects in the water. But from the air … we are able to search a large area and track down where these individuals are.”

Members of the search and rescue team walk along the shoreline near Delaps Cove on Tuesday. (CBC)

Owens also said local fishing vessels had gone to sea to try and help, and that other boats on the water were encouraged to keep an eye out.

Scallop fishing is big business in Nova Scotia. Landings of 50,000 tonnes in 2018 were valued at $153 million, second only to lobster at $773 million.

Phil Carty, who runs a boat out of Digby, N.S., says he knows the captain of the missing vessel, Charles Roberts, well.

“I won’t call him fearless, but it seemed like the weather didn’t affect him too much,” said Carty, who drove to the area hoping to help in any way he could.

“I’ve been on the beach. I found a first aid kit out of his life raft and the life rafts are on the shore … it’s a hard hit. We are a community of fishermen, so it’s sad to see this,” Carty said.

“But on the same note, we take a chance every trip, regardless of the conditions … Stuff can still happen.”

Carty said the weather was worse than forecasted and he heard the ship was headed for Digby from Chignecto Bay in a strong northwest gale.

A search and rescue helicopter flies over Parkers Cove, N.S., on Tuesday. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

“It’s the last thing on your mind, you always think you’re going to get home. But it’s one of them things where it’s out of your hands.”

Jacob Jacquard, a fisherman in Yarmouth, N.S., has been anxiously waiting for updates all day.

“It’s hard on me. It’s hard on my family. We knew a lot of the guys on that boat,” Jacquard said in an interview with CBC’s As It Happens Tuesday. 

“I fished on that boat myself most of last year … three weeks ago the captain called me asking if I wanted to go scalloping with him.”

Jacquard said the crew would have been coming into shore with a full load of scallops when the distress signal was sent.

“It was a really good sea boat,” he said. “That’s why we’re all trying to piece it together of what happened, why it went down. I’ve been on that boat in rougher seas than last night. It would have been really scary. I believe most of the guys would have been in their bunks sleeping.”

Phil Carty of Digby, N.S., knows the vessel’s captain and came to assist in any way he could. (CBC)

Jacquard said the crew would have had survival suits, personal flotation devices and life jackets on board.

“If the guys were in their bunk, and a wave hit them and they rolled, they wouldn’t have had time to put on anything really. They wouldn’t have had time to even get on deck,” he said.

Angela Burnie, a member of the Hillsburn United Baptist Church, which is near Delaps Cove, said the church set up space for first responders to get warm, get some food and use the washroom.

Burnie said she was feeling “kind of overwhelmed.” She said it was windy and “bitter cold” in the area Tuesday, and it’s not a good feeling to hear a search like this is underway in her community.

“Normally the outcome is never all that great,” she said. “We just pray they watch over all the rescuers and hope good comes of this,” she said.

Rev. Bob Elliott said his heart breaks for the communities involved.

“You know what’s going through my head, it’s almost Christmas. These men have been on the water, they’re cold, and something has happened catastrophic,” he said. “My heart goes out to their families and friends and loved ones on this day.”

Charles Roberts, captain of the Chief William Saulis, is among the six people missing after the boat sent out an emergency beacon signal early Tuesday morning. (Facebook)

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