No sign of the Miss Ally

Debris field found near capsized ship's last position

Greg Bennett gbennett@thecoastguard.ca
Published on February 21, 2013

Searchers looking for the capsized hull of the Miss Ally are reporting a small debris field near where the vessel once was.

The RCMP received help from the Department of National Defence and three aircraft patrolled in vicinity of the Miss Ally’s last known position throughout Thursday morning and afternoon.

A Canadian Armed Forces CC130 SAR Hercules joined aircraft from Transport Canada, and Provincial Airlines to patrol an area more than 1,700 square km with no sighting of the intact capsized hull. Instead, small items of debris were spotted within a 5 nautical miles grouping and concentrated 10 nautical miles east of Miss Ally’s last known position. Initial analysis of the photos taken during the patrol suggests it is likely these items are from the Miss Ally.

“We continue to exhaust all efforts in support of the RCMP and our thoughts and prayers are with the families,” noted Rear-Admiral Dave Gardam, Commander of Joint Task Force Atlantic.

Thursday evening the RCMP gathered the families of the missing men to provide them with the most current update. In addition, the families were given photos from this afternoon’s surveillance flights.

“This is devastating to the families and to the entire community. These men were deeply loved and the loss of young lives will impact the hearts and souls of the fishers and their community for many years to come,” expressed RCMP Superintendent Sylvie Bourassa-Muise, District Policing Officer, Southwest Nova Scotia.

Yet while the RCMP said in a media release that they had gathered the families of the missing men to update them of the situation, one of the families told us Friday morning that they hadn’t been contacted on Thursday by the RCMP to be told directly about what was happening.

Bruce Reynolds, speaking on behalf of Billy Jack Hatfield’s mother, said she wasn’t contacted by the RCMP Thursday to be told that there had been no sign of the Miss Ally that day, or that bits of debris had been found.

“We found out on the TV,” said Reynolds, saying he contacted the RCMP and was told by the police that they were sorry the family hadn’t been notified.

“We just wanted the media to know,” Reynolds said, adding the situation has been very confusing for families who have been holding out hope that the Miss Ally would be searched.

“Last night we had real good hope because the boats were going out and now it’s all gone,” Reynolds said Friday morning.

Reynolds said the family, and himself, has many questions.

 “I’m sure there are probably different scenarios, but why wasn’t the boat tagged where it was, why did it have to be left floating at sea, which is a hazard to navigation? Why wasn’t something done when the Earl Grey was there? She is a large ship,” he wonders. “It’s just my opinion, I feel that they searched everywhere in the water, why didn’t they search the boat?”

Thursday night, two RCMP members boarded the Canadian Coast Guard vessel, Sir William Alexander, alongside the Canadian Coast Guard crew. The Sir William Alexander left Halifax to steam towards the area where the debris field was spotted. The vessel is being deployed to provide safety and security on the water and is prepared to stand-by until further plans are developed

A small flotilla of fishing vessels from Woods Harbour and surrounding areas was also en route to the site in efforts to find the missing fishermen.

On Friday, air force aircraft will conduct an additional over flight of the last known position of the site of debris.

The RCMP continues to operate its Mobile Command Centre outside the Community Centre in Wood’s Harbour as a base of operations. The RCMP has made available Chaplain’s, Counselors, and representatives from RCMP Victim Services to provide support and assistance to the families, friends and the larger community.