Wheelhouse gone, no bodies found say divers

Amy Woolvett amywoolvett@thecoastguard.ca
Published on February 23, 2013
Divers are reporting that the wheelhouse and sleeping quarters is missing from the boat.

by Amy Woolvett and Kathy Johnson

Private divers performed a search of the Miss Ally on Saturday afternoon but reported back that nothing was found.

“The wheelhouse was gone,” said George Hopkins, father of Joel Hopkins, one of the five fishermen who went missing on the Miss Ally last Sunday.

The divers did a thorough search of the engine room as well.

Hopkins was unsure whether survival suits were found aboard the boat.

“This all happened so quickly,” he said.

RCMP say that at 6 p.m. the captain of a private fishing vessel, Slave Driver, reported to the crew of the Canadian Coast Guard Vessel, the Sir William Alexander, that divers visually confirmed that no wheelhouse, or sleeping quarters were attached to the hull of the Miss Ally and that no bodies were located. 

 The divers reported that the vessel had sustained major damage.

RCMP Superintendent Sylvie Bourassa-Muise, District Policing Officer, Southwest Nova Scotia said,  “On behalf of RCMP and Department of National Defence and Canadian Coast Guard, we express our deepest sympathies to the families.”

 The HMCS Glace Bay remains on route to the site of the Miss Ally, with augmentation from Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic). The ship is expected to arrive in the area overnight and will conduct a remotely operated vehicle underwater (ROV) assessment of the Miss Ally in the morning in an effort to gather more information and photos from the vessel. 

 Joint Task Force Atlantic will continue to support the RCMP's request for air surveillance and maintain air coverage of the scene until further notice. 

  ”They have returned to their boat now and are on the way back to shore.”

A buoy line had been attached to the Miss Ally by the divers before they left the scene.

Supt. Bourassa-Muise said there is a plan in place that will be carried out in the morning, but was not at liberty to release to details. “Our mandate continues to be a missing persons investigation,” said Supt. Bourassa-Muise, adding the case will remain an open and active investigation.

Supt. Bourassa-Muise called the “massive recovery effort” that was undertaken over the past week an “unprecedented event.”

Supt. Bourassa-Muise called the recovery operation a “collaborative effort” between the families, the community, and the RCMP’s federal partners. “We are very thankful for their efforts in assisting the RCMP,” she said.

The RCMP mobile command unit was to move  out of the community on Sunday but RCMP officers will still be available to support the families and the community, said Supt. Bourassa-Muise.