There were calls for an inquiry yesterday after three men died following a Canadian Coast Guard rescue mission that went terribly wrong early Saturday morning. A fourth man is missing and presumed dead.
Six Québécois seal hunters from Iles-de-la-Madeleine were aboard L’Acadien II off the coast of Cape Breton just after midnight Saturday when they reported steering problems as a result of heavy pack ice.
Canadian Coast Guard ice breaker Sir William Alexander was towing the fishing trawler to safety when it hit a large chunk of ice and capsized.
Two sealers were rescued and three bodies found. Divers did not find the body of a sixth hunter after an extensive search, and efforts were called off around 6 p.m. Saturday.
“All hope had diminished for the last missing person’s survival due to the circumstances in the frigid water,” said Navy Lt. Lora Collier, spokeswoman for Joint Task Force Atlantic in Halifax.
“Typically speaking, a search-and-rescue operation remains underway for as long as there is any possible hope for survival.”
One of the survivors of the tragedy, Bruno-Pierre Bourque, told the CBC that speed and inattention of the coast guard crew was the cause of the fatal accident.
The mayor of Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Joel Arseneau, voiced his concerns over the weekend, saying the tragedy has hit the community hard and he hopes to see an inquiry into the incident.
Canadian Coast Guard spokesman Tim Surette told reporters at a press conference Saturday there were some questions he couldn’t answer.
“Why were they being towed? Why they stayed on their own vessel? I can’t answer that here,” he said.