Fisherman presumed drowned

Search called off after nearly 24 hours

Driving rain, a 15-knot wind and three-foot waves hampered the search for a fisherman now presumed drowned after the boat he was in capsized off Kitamaat Village last night.

Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCM SAR) Station 63 station leader Spencer Edwards said the crew was informed at 7 p.m. that one man was missing in the waters off Kitamaat Village while another had been pulled from the frigid waters by a Haisla Fisheries vessel 150 metres from shore.

“We ended up taking both our vessels, with three people on each vessel, to join in the search for the missing man,” said Edwards.

He said the first crew searched the waters along with the RCMP, the Coast Guard and Haisla fishing boats, while a Buffalo aircraft dropped flares in the search area to assist the crews.

“When the flares were dropped we could see heavy cloud cover which made it impossible for the rescue helicopter to join the search,” said Edwards. The helicopter was forced to land at Terrace and could only join the search this morning.

The search for the missing fisherman and the four-metre-long aluminium boat was co-ordinated by the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC) in Victoria

“We initially completed search patterns around the village area towards the centre of the channel,” said Edwards.

He said when no sign of the fisherman or the boat was found, the search was extended as far as Maggie’s Point on the village-side of the Douglas Channel, and down to Cleo Point on the other side of the channel.

Several runs were made by the search crews in the area, the search hampered by the poor conditions.

“It’s really challenging looking for a small vessel like that, a skiff which is very low in the water,” said Edwards.

“There was a lot of debris out there, lots of logs, which presented challenges for our radar and made it difficult for us to spot objects.”

The first crew returned at 4.30 a.m. and was replaced by a second who rejoined the search at 7 a.m.

“It was very quiet at the briefing this morning because we hadn’t found the gentleman. We were a little shook up and disappointed that we didn’t have a positive outcome,” said Edwards.

He said the fisherman’s chances of survival were not good considering the water temperature was below 10 degrees Celsius, with an air temperature hovering above two degrees.

Edwards said the last time Station 63 was involved in a similar rescue was four years ago when a boat ran aground on the rocks. The crew were rescued the following day.

The search for the missing fisherman was also conducted on land by Kitimat Search and Rescue (KSAR), who were initially contacted at 7 p.m., and then asked to join the search at 9 p.m.

KSAR sent nine members, two teams of three searchers assisted by three support staff, to conduct a shoreline search.

Search managers Kelly Marsh and Manny Arruda said the teams walked along the shoreline from Maggie’s Point up to past the village, in hopes of finding the fisherman had made it to shore.

“Combined with the dark, the slippery, greasy rocks slowed us down significantly,” said an exhausted Marsh.

After completing their search at 3.30 a.m., they returned to their base at 5 p.m., and managed to get an hour’s sleep before they were called back at 7 a.m.

At 9.30 a.m. Marsh, Arruda and KSAR member Morgan Williams boarded a helicopter and searched for the fisherman, flying as far south as Jesse Lake 22 kilometres down the channel, scanning the shore and the waters for signs of the fisherman, covering an area of 120 square kilometres.

Despite the intensive search, there was no sign of the man, and the search was called off this afternoon.

Kitimat RCMP Media Relations Officer Const. Rebekah Draht said the man was now presumed drowned.

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Flares were dropped from a Buffalo aircraft to assist the search.

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