POLITICS

New Brunswick village begins to heal after bodies of fishermen recovered

05/20/2013 12:54 EDT | Updated 07/20/2013 05:12 EDT
TABUSINTAC, NEW BRUNSWICK, - The deaths of three New Brunswick fishermen have cast a pall over the northeastern communities where they lived and worked, but a local leader said Monday the healing can begin now that their bodies have been recovered.

The coming weeks will be very difficult for the men's families, but the tight-knit village of Tabusintac — where one of the fishermen lived — will rally around them, said Chris Avery, chair of the community's local service district.

"It is hoped family and friends can find solace in the fact these men were loved, and hold to the legacy they were able to build in their time cut too short," he said in an email on Monday.

A search was launched after a fishing boat carrying the three men hit a sandbar early Saturday morning in rough seas and began taking on water.

Hours later, the body of a 23-year-old man from Tracadie-Sheila was recovered near where their boat capsized around 5:30 a.m.

The other two men, a 35-year-old man from Tabusintac and a 32-year-old man from Brantville, were found near the same area on Sunday around 3:45 p.m.

RCMP have not released their names.

Five search and rescue teams, an underwater recovery team and a platoon from the military base CFB Gagetown took part in the recovery effort on Sunday, with officials combing the shores of Tabusintac and nearby Neguac.

The Mounties said local fishermen and residents played an integral role in the search, providing invaluable knowledge of the area and using their boats to transport search teams.

Avery said some fishermen were expected to be back on the water Monday after tirelessly helping with the recovery effort.

It's what their peers would have wanted, Avery said.

"The pressure these men are already under with the lobster season so short, would indeed be compounded by the recent events, but they are a proud lot, and am sure will fish in their honour," he said.

Conservative Serge Robichaud, who represents the Miramichi Bay-Neguac area in the provincial legislature, said the fishermen are tired and grieving, but fishing is their livelihood.

"They are working men and women. They need to go back to work," said Robichaud in an interview on Sunday. "That's their living. They need to put food on the table."

Robichaud said he arrived at the Tabusintac Wharf around 3 p.m. on Sunday, where family members of the missing fishermen and many residents huddled close together.

About 45 minutes later, boats were seen heading back to shore, "and there were no smiles on their faces," he said. Officials had found the bodies of the two remaining fishermen.

Robichaud said he is friends with the family of the captain of the boat — a hard working young man and a leader in the community.

"It's going to be hard, for his wife and kids," said Robichaud, mentioning the man had two children. "It's going to be so tough."

The tragedy struck the village two weeks ago after a fire gutted five fishing boats at the Tabusintac Wharf. Robichaud has said that one of those boats was the captain's, and the vessel that ran aground on Saturday was a rental.

The Transportation Safety Board was sending a team to investigate the incident.

It's not the first fishing tragedy to hit the Maritimes this year. In February, five young Nova Scotia fishermen were aboard the Miss Ally when it capsized during a violent storm more than 100 kilometres off the province's southwest shore. All of them died.

By Aly Thomson in Halifax