Missing fisherman's brother says he drowned trying to save others

·7 min read
Craig (Jumbo) Sock of Elsipogtog First Nation is missing at sea and presumed dead after his fishing boat sank on Saturday.  (Submitted by Derek Sock - image credit)
Craig (Jumbo) Sock of Elsipogtog First Nation is missing at sea and presumed dead after his fishing boat sank on Saturday. (Submitted by Derek Sock - image credit)

As Derek Sock raced to his brother's sinking fishing boat on Saturday, Craig Sock was fighting to save his shipmates in the frigid waters 16 nautical miles off the coast of Nova Scotia.

The Tyhawk was making its second run of the day to set lobster traps when it began to take on water. As the crew tried to ready the life raft, the Tyhawk suddenly capsized, trapping Jumbo, as Craig Sock of Elsipogtog First Nation was known, and another man in the wheelhouse.

Jumbo managed to toss that man out a window and both men surfaced.

Jumbo ended up near Seth Monahan, who helped him onto the hull of the overturned vessel with the other three men.

"A couple of waves hit them and they were back in the water — all of them. They all separated again, with Jumbo and Seth together again," Derek said by phone Wednesday, recounting the ordeal as told to him by one of the survivors.

Three crew members managed to scramble back on the hull, but Jumbo was still struggling to hold onto Monahan. The trio on the hull threw a rope to Jumbo and, as they reeled them in, Jumbo was pushing Monahan onto the hull from below.

"And he just disappeared. They just seen him going under. They just seen his face. He just went under," said Derek.

Craig Sock was captain of the Tyhawk, which sank Saturday 16 nautical miles west of Chéticamp, N.S.
Craig Sock was captain of the Tyhawk, which sank Saturday 16 nautical miles west of Chéticamp, N.S.(Submitted by Derek Sock)

Derek said his brother lost his life trying to save his crew mate.

"Jumbo's always been a hero in our family," he said before his voice trailed off with emotion.

He recounted the time that Jumbo jumped overboard in 1995 after his 15-year-old brother, Lalio, was pulled overboard after getting caught up in lobster gear.

That's the kind of guy Jumbo was, said Derek.

Both brothers were at the helm of fishing boats off the coast of Nova Scotia last Saturday, said Derek.

Jumbo and his crew set out before 2 a.m. with 75 traps. The brothers made radio contact at about 9:30. Jumbo was heading back in for another load of traps, while Derek and his crew were still setting theirs.

He said the conditions started to get choppy, but since they were going with the currents on the way out, it wasn't that bad until the return trip.

Derek and his crew took a break for supper. The plan was to load up the boat after supper, and if the weather didn't improve, they'd wait until the next day to set out.

Craig Sock and his wife on their wedding day.
Craig Sock and his wife on their wedding day. (Submitted by Derek Sock)

They were just sitting down to a meal when they got word that Jumbo's boat was sinking.

The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax got the call at 5:46 p.m.

Just before the Tyhawk capsized, Jumbo had texted Lyndon Joseph, the captain of another Elsipogtog Fisheries boat out on the water that day.

Derek said Joseph got to the Tyhawk's last known location within about 30 minutes but found nothing. Following the current, he soon came upon the debris of the Tyhawk.

The crew of Joseph's boat managed to get the four fishermen on board. They quickly headed to shore to get medical attention for Monahan, who was unresponsive.

Around that time, Derek, who was heading to the Tyhawk's last known location, got word from the Coast Guard that four people had been rescued and one person was still missing.

Derek headed back to the wharf in Chéticamp, N.S., to meet the crew.

The search effort

Lt.-Cmdr. Brian Owens, spokesperson for the JRCC, said the search and rescue agency began dispatching available resources right away.

A CH149 Cormorant helicopter and a CH130 Hercules aircraft, along with two Coast Guard ships, were sent to the area — which was believed to be about 30 kilometres west of Chéticamp.

Because of poor weather conditions on Sunday, only the larger of the two ships, CCGS Cape Roger, was able to continue the search throughout the day.

Sock was also out looking for his brother on Sunday.

"It's my brother and I could not look at myself if I didn't try. I couldn't face my mother if I didn't try. So I went out there and I did."

Craig Sock and his crew in 2015.
Craig Sock and his crew in 2015. (Submitted by Derek Sock)

By that evening, said Owens, there was no chance of finding the missing captain alive. The search for Sock was suspended after 25 hours.

At 7:35 p.m. Sunday, the efforts turned from a rescue mission to recovery. At that point, the search was turned over to the RCMP as a missing person.

Cpl. Chris Marshall, the provincial public affairs officer for Nova Scotia RCMP, said the force is actively searching for Sock's body. He said they were able to borrow a helicopter from the Department of Lands and Forestry this week, but because of poor weather on Monday and Tuesday, the helicopter wasn't able to search the area until Wednesday afternoon.

Disappointed in search efforts

Sock said searchers are "moving with no sense of urgency."

"Any other time a boat goes down, all these boats are activated and airplanes and helicopters. And all of a sudden my brother's boat goes down and ... nothing like this has happened. And I don't know if it's because it's First Nations or not," said Sock.

"It sure does feel like that because if it was any other boat, we would have had all the bells and whistles going, and all the military airplanes and helicopters."

He said,"I do believe it's a race thing and I'll stick by that."

Older brother Derek Sock, with a little Jumbo.
Older brother Derek Sock, with a little Jumbo. (Submitted by Derek Sock)

He said his brother deserved the same search efforts as the crew of a fishing vessel that sank in the Bay of Fundy

The Chief William Saulis sent out an emergency beacon in the early hours of Dec. 15, just off the coast of Delaps Cove, N.S.

Six men were on the boat when it sank while on its way to port in Digby. The body of one crew member was recovered the evening the ship went down. The other five fishermen have not been found.

'Identical' searches

Owens, the spokesman for the JRCC, said the resources deployed in the two searches were "identical" — both had the Cormorant helicopter, a Hercules aircraft, along with two Coast Guard ships — and all of it would have been posted publicly on JRCC's Twitter page at the time.

He explained that the duration of the initial search-and-rescue operation depends on a number of things, including environment conditions, weather and survivability.

The Chief William Saulis went down about two kilometres from shore in the Bay of Fundy, while the Tyhawk went down 30 km west of Chéticamp in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The search for the Saulis was called off after 36 hours, after only finding one of six crew. The search for the Tyhawk was called off after 25 hours, after finding four of the five crew.

Cpl. Marshall, of the RCMP, said the search for Craig Sock is still active, while the search for the missing members of the Chief William Saulis has been suspended.

The Saulis was found sitting upright on the bottom of the Bay off Fundy on Jan. 16, about two kilometres from Delaps Cove.

More lives may have been saved

Derek Sock said the Tyhawk set out early Saturday morning with a full load of 75 traps and a crew of nine.

Because of deteriorating conditions, his brother decided to only take half the traps and half the crew on their second trip. He gave his son, his nephew and two other men the rest of the day off.

Sock believes Jumbo likely saved their lives.