Injured N.S. fisherman overwhelmed by 'unbelievable' community support

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Andrew Saulnier, right, and fiancée Julie Smith are shown Friday at a Halifax hospital. Saulnier suffered serious injuries in an incident on a fishing vessel, but says community support has been amazing. (CBC - image credit)
Andrew Saulnier, right, and fiancée Julie Smith are shown Friday at a Halifax hospital. Saulnier suffered serious injuries in an incident on a fishing vessel, but says community support has been amazing. (CBC - image credit)

Andrew Saulnier struggles to find the words to describe his last few weeks.

The 24-year-old fisherman suffered life-threatening injuries in a workplace incident on a vessel in southwestern Nova Scotia earlier this month.

Saulnier has dealt with multiple surgeries, including a leg amputation, but said the outpouring of support from friends, family and the community has been truly incredible.

"It's unreal, that's part of the reason why I'm so emotional," Saulnier said Friday, his voice breaking. His fiancée, Julie Smith, was by his side.

"It's unbelievable how much the community can actually come together to help somebody. I can't thank anyone enough … I want to give them all a big ol' hug, but I can't."

Funds, cards, messages pour in

People have been fundraising for Saulnier and his family, including donation jars, barbecues and an online crowdfunding campaign that had reached $46,750 by Saturday.

Then there's been the flood of kind messages. Since both of his hands are broken, Saulnier has had Smith respond to as many as possible. Her fingers are "getting pretty sore," he said with a smile.

Andrew Saulnier, 24, was badly injured in an incident on a fishing vessel off southwestern N.S. He says his fishing days are over.
Andrew Saulnier, 24, was badly injured in an incident on a fishing vessel off southwestern N.S. He says his fishing days are over.(Facebook)

Smith said people have also been dropping cards off to her grandmother's house, which they can "keep forever."

"Everything matters, no matter what it is," Saulnier added.

RCMP have said the fisherman got caught in the machinery when the vessel's engine went into gear.

New COVID restrictions hard for family

Police were called to Camp Cove Wharf Road in Argyle early on April 10. Saulnier was taken by ambulance to Yarmouth Regional Hospital. He was then taken to Halifax by helicopter.

Saulnier said he's "not too bad" pain-wise and his recovery is progressing. but there is a long road ahead.

While he has been dealing with depression in the hospital, Saulnier said he's been feeling a little better recently and "thinking positive" since he just wants to get better and head home.

His father has been a big support and comfort, but Saulnier said he had to go home with the recent COVID-19 restrictions in the Halifax area. Only one designated support person at a time is allowed.

"[It's] been rough but I gotta keep my head up, get myself back better, and get myself back home to my daughter," Saulnier said.

Labour investigation ongoing

The crowdfunding page for Saulnier says he has a two-year-old daughter, a three-year-old stepson, and a baby on the way.

One thing is for sure. Saulnier is done fishing.

"I made her a promise," he said. "I'm just happy to be alive still. It was a close call, is all I got to say."

RCMP don't believe the cause of the injury is suspicious.

The Labour Department has said a stop-work order was issued, and an inspection is being carried out.

The vessel was not named.

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