By Tina Comeau
There are heavy and broken hearts in Yarmouth County and southwestern Nova Scotia this weekend after a lobster fisherman fell overboard and could not be located during an active search.
“It is with great sadness that the decision was made around 9 a.m. to stop the search,” said LCdr Bruno Tremblay, a spokesperson for the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, on Sunday morning, Jan. 13. “The case will be passed to the RCMP as a missing person. All of our thoughts are with the family of the missing fisherman and his friends during this troubling time.”
The missing fisherman is 20-year-old Michael Jeffrey Doucette of Wedgeport.
Although search conditions on the water were said to be excellent and there was a large number of search assets involved, 15 hours had passed when the decision was made to call off the search.
Doucette had fallen overboard on Saturday evening. Tremblay said he was reported missing to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Halifax at 6:47 p.m. Saturday evening, Jan. 12. However, Tremblay said at the time the fisherman was reported missing it had been about an hour since he had last been seen. The crew on the boat wasn’t aware that he was missing. They thought he was somewhere on the vessel.
Tremblay said assets were dispatched within five minutes after the call was made to the JRCC, although for some assets it was at least an hour before they were able to arrive on the scene.
At the height of the search a Cormorant and Hercules were searching from the air. The Hercules used more than 100 flares to keep the searching area illuminated throughout the night. On the water there were two Coast Guard vessels – the CC Spray and the Earl Grey – along with many fishing vessels.
“At some point there were up to 20 fishing vessels helping with the search,” said Tremblay, who said the fisherman who had been aboard the fishing vessel Row Row was not believed to have been wearing any floatation device when he fell overboard.
When it was discovered that Doucette was missing, the vessel he had been on immediately turned back to begin its own search.
The search was taking place in an area around 33 nautical miles south west of Yarmouth.
Tremblay said it was a challenging search because the crew of the vessel could only speculate as to where the fisherman might have fallen into the water, given that no one saw the incident occur.
“This is certainly a very hard time for the family,” he said, and indeed for everyone involved in the search.
It is also a sad time for the lobster industry as a whole, which always mourns the loss of one of it’s own at times like these.
On Facebook people had been expressing their hope that the fisherman would be found. Many have offered prayers to the young man and his family.