Despite end of official search for missing fishermen, family says they won't stop looking

·5 min read
Joey Jenkins, left, and Marc Russell have been missing since Sept. 17, off the coast of Mary's Harbour. (Submitted by Jonah Smith/Jeanette Russell - image credit)
Joey Jenkins, left, and Marc Russell have been missing since Sept. 17, off the coast of Mary's Harbour. (Submitted by Jonah Smith/Jeanette Russell - image credit)

RCMP have called off the official search for two missing fishermen but the family of one of the men says they haven't given up.

On Tuesday afternoon, RCMP said they had exhausted search efforts for Jenkins and his crewmate Marc Russell after searching more than 9,000 square nautical miles over a 10-day period.

Russell's father, Dwight Russell, told CBC News the search for the two men is still very much active. He said the Ocean Seeker, a vessel with underwater imaging, is continuing to search, along with local boats, for any sign of what happened to the missing men and the Island Lady.

The two men were last seen in the early evening of Sept. 17. Russell and Jenkins headed out for more cod and didn't return to Mary's Harbour.

"I knew something was wrong because Marc was not active on Messenger," Dwight Russell said. "Something was telling me something was wrong and I called fishermen to go up on the hill and look, see if they can see the boat."

Submitted by Dwight Russell
Submitted by Dwight Russell

The fishermen looked from the hill at about 5:30 p.m. but didn't see the Island Lady. Dwight Russell called his wife and she got two others to go and look as well and he tried calling the fishermen's radio but received no response. After searching for the men, the coast guard was called in.

Russell was a talented fishermen who loved cod

This summer and fall was Marc Russell's first season out on the Island Lady. His friends previously told CBC it was a beautiful boat and he loved what he did. Dwight Russell said his son was the type of person who always spoke his mind.

"There was no filter and he didn't care who it was and what people were there in the area. And that was it at the end of it," Dwight said. "He was very eager this year."

Marc wanted to fish cod in 2020 with a small boat, but Dwight wasn't comfortable with that, he said. So Marc found the Island Lady and some nets from older men giving up the career.

Submitted by Jonah Smith
Submitted by Jonah Smith

"He was very confident of what he was doing," Dwight said. "He could take my 75-footer boat and he could handle her."

Jenkins remembered as professional photographer, drone pilot

Jenkins's longtime girlfriend said the first weekend he visited, they stopped by a museum exhibit with an old black and white camera with a hood for the photographer. Nikki Greenley said she stood by as Jenkins began explaining how it all worked to her and became so animated, he didn't realize a crowd had gathered.

"He was explaining that camera, and I just see this spark," Greenley said. "I just met him, and I knew that I didn't want to live my life without him."

Submitted by Amanda Chubbs
Submitted by Amanda Chubbs

Greenley and Jenkins bought a house together three years ago and were fixing it up in the Mary's Harbour area when he began fishing with lifelong friend Russell. Joan Jenkins, Joey Jenkins's mother, said she never pushed her two sons to the water because she feared what could happen.

"One of my last conversations with him, I said, 'So when are you finished fishing?' And he said, 'Well, couple, a few days.' I'd say 'Thank God,' I said, 'because I can't wait for you to get off the water,'" she said. "And it's mother's worst nightmare come true."

Joan Jenkins said the tragedy has hit the family hard, as her husband died only two months ago after battling a long illness.

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

Joey was unique and level-headed, she said.

"I don't think he had a mean bone in his body or an enemy," Joan said. "His family and Nikki was everything to him … and oh my God, you put him behind a camera or with the drone, and there was nothing he couldn't accomplish."

Jenkins was also a beloved uncle, said his sister-in-law Amanda Chubbs. The first time Jenkins held his niece Adaline, the newborn was screaming and screaming, Chubbs said.

"He was just like giggling at her, like, 'what?'" Chubbs said. "She'd walk across a room and he'd just be completely amazed by this little thing that his brother made. She has his eyes, though she looks a lot like me. I got green. Jody has hazel, but she has Unkie Joe's bright blue eyes."

Submitted by Amanda Chubbs
Submitted by Amanda Chubbs

Chubbs said "Unkie Joe" was wrapped around Adaline's finder and they adored each other. Joey also took their family photographs for fall and Christmas, along with other informal photo shoots.

Signed photographs have taken on new meaning

Through his years working as a photographer, Joey would print some of his pictures for himself, family or friends. Jonah Smith and Colin Rumbolt both have pieces in their home and say there's hardly anyone in Mary's Harbour that doesn't.

"He could take the ugliest tree in the woods and turn it into the most beautiful picture that I've ever seen," Smith said. "It was unbelievable, the work he did."

Both Smith and Rumbolt say the photographs have taken on a new deeper meaning given everything that's happened.

"They're priceless. They're phenomenal. People got to see these like they're the real deal. And he was so proud of his work, and everybody was so proud of his work," Rumbolt said.

"I'm going to look at those photos, and I'm gonna miss Joe a hell of a lot more, because those photos, even when he was here, they meant a lot to me because I loved his work. I really did," Smith said.

"He took pride and he took joy into it. He loved it."

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