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Families say everything possible should be done to recover bodies from sunken boat

Click to play video: 'Digby, NS residents apprehensive as search continues for missing scallop boat' Digby, NS residents apprehensive as search continues for missing scallop boat
Digby, NS residents apprehensive as search continues for missing scallop boat – Dec 16, 2020

Some family members of the lost crew of a Nova Scotia scallop dragger say they hope federal agencies pursue all safe possibilities to recover the remains of their loved ones from a wreck sitting on the bottom of the Bay of Fundy.

A remotely operated underwater vehicle located the Chief William Saulis on Saturday under more than 60 metres of water about two kilometres off Delaps Cove, N.S., on the province’s southwestern shore.

Since the sudden sinking of the dragger Dec. 15, the body of one crew member, Michael Drake, has been found along the coast north of Digby, but crew members Aaron Cogswell, Leonard Gabriel, Dan Forbes, Geno Francis and captain Charles Roberts are still missing.

Read more: RCMP locates missing scallop dragger off Delaps Cove, N.S.

Laura Smith, the sister and next of kin of Gabriel, says it would give her family closure to have her brother’s body back home, and she favours raising the boat for further investigation if it can be done without endangering lives.

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Lori Phillips, Cogswell’s mother, says she continues to expect that a federal agency, whether it’s the RCMP or the Transportation Safety Board, will inspect the sunken boat with the ROV, and she believes the boat should be raised.

Michelle Nickerson-Forbes, the spouse of Dan Forbes, says she wants the boat to be carefully examined to see if the bodies are on board and then, if it’s safe, to raise the boat.

All three say that they are expecting the federal agencies involved, the RCMP and the Transportation Safety Board, to ensure safety but also not to reject body recovery and boat-raising operations solely due to costs.

Click to play video: 'RCMP lead recovery effort for scallop fishers presumed dead in Nova Scotia' RCMP lead recovery effort for scallop fishers presumed dead in Nova Scotia
RCMP lead recovery effort for scallop fishers presumed dead in Nova Scotia – Dec 17, 2020

Cpl. Mark Skinner, a spokesman for the RCMP, said Monday work is currently underway to determine what steps can be taken in the recovery effort in the deepwater environment.

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In a response last month, the RCMP said it has a mandate to recover bodies so that the chief medical examiner can determine the cause of death, but under the Canada Labour Code, the federal agency must ensure employees don’t perform duties they aren’t trained or equipped to do.

“If the conditions surpass the capabilities of the RCMP, a decision is made on the feasibility of contracting external resources to assist in the recovery . . . or discontinuing further recovery efforts if unsafe,” the police force said in an email.

Read more: Search continues a month after fishers went missing off coast of Nova Scotia

Pierre Murray, a senior official with the Atlantic office of the Transportation Safety Board, said the safety board could consider raising the boat, which is sitting upright, as part of it mandate to examine safety issues.

“Is there a need for it (raising the boat)? That’s what we’re still looking at,” he said, noting no decision has been made yet.

“The boat is pretty deep. It’s a big undertaking. It’s the Bay of Fundy in the winter with heavy current and under (more than) 200 feet of water,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021.

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