Watch the Global Halifax Evening News at 6 p.m. from Feb. 17-21 to see all of Natasha Pace’s reports on the Miss Ally tragedy
WOODS HARBOUR, N.S. – It’s been one year since the Miss Ally capsized off the coast of Nova Scotia’s south shore. Five young men were lost to the sea sea in a tragedy that left an entire community in mourning.
The boat flipped while fishing halibut on Feb. 17, 2013, and the fishermen who perished that day will never be forgotten in Woods Harbour.
Katlin Nickerson, the captain of the Miss Ally, was described as a fearless leader.
Tyson Townsend was an avid hockey fan and proud new dad to Lilly, who was just seven months old when he died.
Steven “Cole” Nickerson was a friend to many, with a deep sense of faith.
Joel Hopkins was a father of two, and described as a free spirit to those who knew him best.
Billy Jack Hatfield, the oldest of the five men, was a carpenter by trade. He hated fishing, but did it to support his family — he left behind three young children.
Sandy Stoddard was fishing in the same area the night the Miss Ally capsized and encouraged the men to head home as the storm approached.
The lights on the boat malfunctioned, and the crew stayed behind to try and locate their long line gear.
It was a decision that proved to be fatal.
“Did he make a bad judgement call? Yeah, we all have,” Stoddard said. “He made a bad judgement call on the weather, but I’ve made many of them myself.
“There have been several times that I rode off and they didn’t think I was coming back. But it wasn’t my time.”
Stoddard, a lifelong fisherman, said he saw a younger version of himself in Katlin Nickerson, who was the youngest aboard the vessel.
He said Nickerson’s death could have happened to any fisherman.
“Katlin was a fine young gentleman. He was a nice boy,” he said. “He was a hardworking boy, full of eagerness. He wanted to work hard and prove himself in this industry.”
A year later, there is still grief and disbelief in the tiny village. The site where the Miss Ally used to dock remains empty.
“The tears are still there, the hurt is still there. That ain’t ever going away,” Stoddard said.
For residents of Woods Harbour, faith is a way of life. Since the tragedy, the community has come together to help the families of the five fishermen.
“I was just so proud of the community…the way everybody rallied together and rose to the occasion,” said Pastor Rod Guptill of the Wesleyan United Church.
According to Guptill, the healing process has been slow.
“Everybody that goes out on the water knows there’s the potential and the risks involved in the industry,” he said. “It never makes it easy. It just it hits hard.”
“They’re young men that were lost and the families are deeply hurt by it.
“They’ll be hurt forever until the last breath they ever take on the face of this Earth,” he said. “They’ll still be grieving for those children. We all will.”