As search expands for missing Labrador fishermen, family and friends hold out hope

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

As the search for two missing fishermen off the Labrador coast gets a boost of added resources and technology, friends and family are holding out hope for their loved ones.

The search for Marc Russell and Joey Jenkins of Mary's Harbour is now in its fifth day, with a large dive team from the RCMP's underwater recovery team and Deer Lake ground search and rescue en route to the community Wednesday afternoon.

The Ocean Seeker, a vessel equipped with advanced underwater imaging and owned by Kraken Robotics, has also been greenlighted to join the search and is on its way.

"We were very proud yesterday after asking RCMP to to look into that asset, and last night it came true and they should be here tomorrow," said Dwight Russell, Marc Russell's father.

"We just need to look in that area because right now there hasn't been any work done in the last location of where the [Island Lady] has been seen."

The two fishermen, and their fishing vessel the Island Lady, were last seen Friday. They were due back in Mary's Harbour that evening but never arrived.

Instead, a VHF radio call about an overdue boat rang out throughout their community of about 340 people.

Other fish harvesters immediately took to the waters and the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre led the search over the weekend. At 9 p.m. Sunday, the JRCC called off its search, leaving it in the hands of the RCMP as a recovery mission.

Submitted/Dwight Russell
Submitted/Dwight Russell

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Coast Guard overruled that and offered the RCMP military air support and coast guard assets. On Tuesday, three aircraft — one from the province and two from the military — searched from above while boats were on the water.

Winds have caused challenges while searching, Russell said, but said crews are hopeful for tomorrow.

He said local RCMP officers have been working day and night with limited staff and the community has stepped up in a large way to support the family and search.

"It just shows the true spirit of the people in the area," Russell said. "And you know, we will be forever grateful ... Just this huge thank you. Love you all."

The Russell family thanked everyone who has advocated for them and for the search since it started, and said the added pressure made all the difference to keep the search going.

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

A love 'like brothers'

On Tuesday afternoon, four men stood on the empty spot where the Island Lady should be and poured a little bit of beer out for their missing friends.

Jonah Smith, Colin Rumbolt, Donovan Johnson and Patrick Hopkins were quiet on the wharf as they looked toward the ocean.

The four grew up with Russell and Jenkins, and had been out searching until 4 a.m. on Tuesday. In the early afternoon, they took a break to support each other.

Johnson said they're getting through the emotions of having two missing friends by being together.

"I'll never give up hope," he said.

The four friends chuckled as they shared their favourite memories and looked at old videos with Russell and Jenkins.

Rumbolt said they have very different personalities.

"[Russell] was a little bit loud. Love to talk," Rumbolt said. "He was a great fisherman."

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

The two men would do anything to help a friend, he continued, and were always just a phone call away. While Rumbolt was away for school, he would phone his parents, and Russell and Rumbolt's father would be chatting at the kitchen table when his father picked up.

"They've been big, big, strong pillars for my family, and I love them just like brothers," Rumbolt said.

Johnson agreed, saying Russell and Jenkins always had their backs no matter what. He said that's why they felt the need to help search.

"I know that if I was in their situation that they would not hesitate to do the exact same thing, if not more," Johnson said.

"You know, a part of me looks out there and drives me crazy that I'm here and not out there, knowing that they are potentially still there."

'Heartbreaking' situation

The two young fishermen were making a name for themselves leading up to the disappearance, Rumbolt said.

Russell had bought the Island Lady this year and Joey was working with him, he said. The past few weeks they were bringing in large catches and showing what young men could do, he said.

Russell is a "phenomenal skipper," Rumbolt said. "He was calm, collected. He was always thinking, trying to stay two steps ahead of everything that was going on. So it's been a bit of a shock for us."

The Island Lady was Russell's "pride and joy," he added.

Hopkins says their skill and hauls are an inspiration to others in town.

Submitted by Jonah Smith
Submitted by Jonah Smith

"[Russell] wasn't the type of person to give up on anything. He was always determined. Positive attitude on everything and a bigger outlook. He inspired a lot of people to do good for themselves and never give up," Hopkins said.

Hopkins called the circumstances "pretty heartbreaking."

"But we just got to be proud for person Marc is and live on for that," he said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting