Fire aboard shrimp trawler off Newfoundland started in sauna: investigation report

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — The Transportation Safety Board says a fire in January aboard a large factory-freezer trawler started in the ship's sauna as the vessel was catching and processing shrimp off the coast of Newfoundland.

The independent agency, in an investigation report released Thursday, said it appears a wooden footrest left on the sauna's electric heater burst into flames.

No one was injured, but the fire — detected next to the ship's tanning room — prompted a major search and rescue effort as the crew worked in teams to extinguish the flames amid heavy smoke on the third deck.

The Newfoundland Lynx, operated by St. John's-based Ocean Choice International, was 166 kilometres northeast of St. Anthony, N.L., when the fire broke out on Jan. 29 — six days after the ship left the port of Harbour Grace, N.L., with 29 people aboard.

Smoke from the fire was noticed at 3:15 p.m. by the ship's bosun, who was in his cabin next to the tanning room.

The report says a heat detector in the sauna did not activate the 67-metre vessel's fire alarm, and some firefighting equipment had deteriorated to the point that it did not function as intended.

Search and rescue authorities in Halifax dispatched a Hercules aircraft, a Cormorant helicopter and two coast guard vessels, and other boats in the area also provided assistance.

The company has since removed the sauna and ordered additional firefighting equipment.

The ship, built in 2003, is designed to spend up to six weeks at sea.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 12, 2020

The Canadian Press