The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre says it has suspended the search for five fishers that went missing after a scallop boat sank in the Bay of Fundy on Tuesday.
“Regrettably, based on the results of the search over the last 36+ hours, a search covering over 260 sq NM by sea and air, and the environmental factors, the search for the six missing fishers has been suspended,” the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) said in a tweet.
The 15-metre Chief William Saulis floundered northeast of Digby amid heaving, three-metre waves pushed by 40-kilometre-per-hour gusts and an unusually high tide.
Searchers later found two empty life-rafts, some clothing and debris consistent with a sinking.
The body of one man was recovered late Tuesday, but the search continued Wednesday for five other men as ground search crews said they were seeking closure for the families.
The JRCC has turned the investigation over to the RCMP who will investigate the incident as a missing persons case.
In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, the Nova Scotia RCMP said it has setup a command centre at the United Baptist Church in Hillsburn as a base of operations.
“The RCMP is being supported by the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office (EMO), Nova Scotia Public Safety and Field Communications, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Ground Search and Rescue teams from West Hants, Valley, Annapolis, Digby, Clare and Yarmouth,” the statement read.
The search zone spans 55 kilometres from Delaps Cove to Margaretsville in Annapolis County.
“Searchers continue to look for items from the Chief William Saulis, such as life jackets, survival kits, survival suits, emergency beacons and human remains,” said the RCMP.
Due to dangerous conditions on shorelines, such as ice-build up and pounding surf, ground search efforts will be focused in the daylight hours.
“The RCMP is asking members of the public to stay away from the shoreline in this area while the search continues,” read the release.
Global News has learned that the Transportation Safety Board has been gathering information on the boat and will deploy a team on Thursday.
Yarmouth Sea Products, the operator of the Chief William Saulis, said in a release the crew members on board were experienced fishermen, and inspections of safety equipment were up to date.
Upon the investigation of the vessel’s black box, which provides hourly updates of location, the company determined the fishing vessel left the fishing ground at approximately 1 a.m. It then showed the vessel continued steaming toward Digby until the signal stopped around 6 a.m.
“There appears to have been an unknown event causing the vessel to capsize as no distress call is known to have been made,” the release read.
“The company extends on behalf of all the fishermen employed by the company who share in the grief at the loss of these men, its condolences to the families and dependants of the lost fishermen.”
— With files from The Canadian Press.