ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — People in a Newfoundland town are grieving the deaths of two fishermen while anxiously awaiting news about a third missing after a small boat sank off the community's coast Tuesday.
Bob Traverse, mayor of Fleur de Lys, N.L., said Wednesday the town hall will be opened as a meeting spot for residents to gather and support each other. Some people had already arrived at the local church earlier in the morning to wait for news, he said.
"Search and rescue and the helicopters are still out there," Traverse said in a phone interview. "It's pretty sad here." He said the town of about 200 residents was already coping with three deaths from natural causes before the sinking.
"We'll help each other out to get through it," he said.
The RCMP received a report from the Canadian Coast Guard at around 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday about the sinking of a seven-metre fishing boat less than a kilometre from shore. Police said in a news release Wednesday that the boat went down 1.6 kilometres from the harbour in Fleur de Lys, which is about 375 kilometres northwest of St. John's. There were four men on board.
Local fishers rescued one of the men from the shore, the release said. They also recovered the two bodies of the men who didn't survive. The rescued man was assessed by an emergency medical team and did not require further care.
As of Wednesday afternoon, a massive search for the missing man was underway at sea and on land, said Mark Gould, the coast guard's deputy superintendent for search and rescue.
"The best case for survivability for this individual would have been had he made it ashore," Gould told reporters at the coast guard headquarters in St. John's. "So in the hopes of finding him alive, we're searching the shoreline now."
The shore consists mostly of rocky cliffs, he added, so it's difficult terrain. But multiple coast guard auxiliary ships were surveying the shore from the water alongside several local fishing boats, while ground search and rescue teams climbed over the rocks, he said. Aircraft, including a Cormorant helicopter, were also flying overhead.
Gould said it wasn't clear when the search might end.
"There's a reason why we search beyond survivability in certain cases. We will do that in this case as well," he said. But he warned that the possibility of a positive outcome was "declining rapidly."
Traverse said the cod fishermen aboard the vessel are believed to be from Fleur de Lys and the nearby community of Coachman's Cove. He said local fishers set out early Wednesday to keep looking for the missing man.
"We've had lots of tragedies over the years, and we always come together and try to help each other," Traverse said.
The Mounties say they're investigating the incident in partnership with Transport Canada and provincial workplace health and safety officials.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 13, 2023.
Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press