Divers who found capsized fishing boat Miss Ally awarded for bravery

HALIFAX – Four Nova Scotians who set out in heavy seas to search for the Miss Ally after the fishing boat capsized in February, claiming five lives, have been awarded provincial medals of bravery.

The Nova Scotia government says Thomas Hennigar, Donald Mahaney, Thomas Nickerson and Gary Thurber spent 30 hours trying to find the 13-metre vessel and dove beneath its hull after it went down in a storm in the Atlantic Ocean.

“They did an extraordinary act,” said George Hopkins, father to Joel Hopkins, one of the Miss Ally’s crew. “They…didn’t have to be asked at all, they just did it.”

“They didn’t have to do what they did, but they did bring a lot of peace to all of us, and I thank them,” said Della Sears, the mother of crew member Katlin Nickerson.

Mahaney said he’s proud of his fellow award recipients.

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“They’re great guys. I love them and they did an excellent job,” he said.

Thurber said he is humbled by the award.

“I don’t feel heroic,” he said. “I feel bad for the families more than anything.

“It doesn’t seem right that I should get recognized for doing something that’s just helping.”

The Miss Ally, based in Woods Harbour, N.S., was on a trip to catch halibut off southwestern Nova Scotia when its emergency locator beacon transmitted a distress call via satellite late on Feb. 17.

The bodies of the five crew members were never found, but the government says the heroic actions of the four divers have provided loved ones with answers on what happened that night.

The men are among seven recipients of this year’s medals of bravery, which are awarded to Nova Scotians who risk their lives or safety to help others.

This year’s recipients also include Aiden Brunn of Martins River and Patrick May of Maplewood, who responded to the scene of a fiery two-vehicle crash in March, and Robert Henderson of Springhill, who helped rescue a neighbour from her burning home in November 2012.

*With a file from Global News’ Natasha Pace


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