Island Lady likely sank quickly and with no warning, TSB rules

·3 min read
Joey Jenkins, left, and Marc Russell were last seen Sept. 17, when they left Mary's Harbour to go fishing.  (Submitted by Jonah Smith/Jeanette Russell - image credit)
Joey Jenkins, left, and Marc Russell were last seen Sept. 17, when they left Mary's Harbour to go fishing. (Submitted by Jonah Smith/Jeanette Russell - image credit)
Submitted by Jonah Smith/Jeanette Russell
Submitted by Jonah Smith/Jeanette Russell

Unable to examine a vessel that cannot be found, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said Wednesday it cannot say what happened to a small fishing vessel that disappeared last year off the coast of southern Labrador.

Marc Russell and Joey Jenkins of Mary's Harbour were last seen Sept. 17 aboard the Island Lady, which fished from Mary's Harbour. The pair had headed out to fish for cod.

"The TSB's investigation into this occurrence could not determine with certainty the cause of the disappearance of the Island Lady," the board said in a statement Wednesday.

"It is likely that the vessel sank and that both crew members entered the water unexpectedly."

The board noted that the Island Lady did not have "any operable distress alerting devices."

No distress calls were received, which "resulted in a delay in search and rescue efforts being initiated and a large search area, greatly reducing the crew's chance of survival."

Family members told CBC News last year they knew something had gone wrong early that evening. Dwight Russell, Marc Russell's father, said he became concerned when there was no activity on the Messenger app they used.

Submitted by Dwight Russell
Submitted by Dwight Russell

"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" from the community, he told Labrador Morning last year.

A search for the next 10 days would cover more than 9,000 square nautical miles, but could not locate the Island Lady, an 8.5-metre vessel powered by two outboard motors.

The search did find a fish tote full of cod, a few gas cans and four gillnets.

Father calls for mandatory emergency beacons

Speaking with CBC Wednesday, Dwight Russell said the report's findings are not new to the family.

He said he hopes they can get to the bottom of what happened eventually and create changes for the future.

One change that could be done right away is to require locator safety gear, he said.

"I think it's important in the future that if we have mandatory EPIRBs [emergency position-indicating radio beacon] on those vessels and make it mandatory to register your DSC [digital selective calling] on your VHF. But you know that wasn't the circumstance," Russell said.

The report said the DSC function of the VHF radio was not operable, because the radio was not registered with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

Russell said the mandatory requirements would help. He was part of the Labrador Shrimp Company's board of directors, which decided to take the precaution of buying its small boats the emergency beacons.

Russell also hopes to see coast guard search and rescue crafts stationed closer to or in the Labrador region, so they can respond quickly to overdue boats or situations where an accident has occurred.

"It's a responsibility of the government to make sure that we have good, adequate search and rescue services … and sometimes it takes a tragedy, an event that happened here to to bring it to a higher level."

Submitted by Jonah Smith
Submitted by Jonah Smith

The TSB noted while the Island Lady was registered with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to meet harvest licensing requirements, it was not registered with Transport Canada — something that is evidently common in the fishing industry.

The TSB's recent investigation into the sinking of the fishing vessel Sarah Anne identified that a large number of fishing vessels are operating in a similar manner," the board said, referring to the May 2020 sinking of a boat in Placentia Bay.

DOCUMENT | Read the full TSB report into the sinking of the Island Lady:  

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