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‘In Labrador there are no coast guard vessels or search and rescue infrastructure’: Dwight Russell

No dedicated Canadian Coast Guard vessel. No search and rescue helicopter. If you fish off Labrador, and your boat goes down, you better be in an immersion suit and life raft, and be prepared to wait ... for hours. Canada should be ashamed.

(Canadian Armed Forces photo.)

On Sept. 21st, 2015, the Atlantic Charger went down off northern Labrador and the crew waited 12 hours for rescue. At the time, the Captain spoke out about the survival/rescue, saying he and the crew "were damn near killed."

(Read about it here.)

Nothing has changed since then to speed up search and rescue response.

Like Dwight Russel also said earlier this week in a heartbreaking plea on VOCM OpenLine for an extension of the search and rescue mission for his son, Marc, and friend Joey Jenkins: “I thought Canada was better than that.”

He's not alone.

The Atlantic Charger sank off northern Labrador on Sept. 21st, 2015. All 9 crewmen were rescued by a factory-freezer trawler after spending 12 hours in immersion suits and a life raft, but questions were raised about the response of the military's Gander-based, search and rescue Cormorant helicopters.

As a Member of Parliament at the time, I immediately posed the following questions to the Canadian Coast Guard, which redirected them to the Canadian Forces.

Questions from MP Cleary's office:

1. Was a search and rescue Cormorant dispatched from Gander to respond to the distress call from the Atlantic Charger?

2. If so, what was the wheels-up time? What time did the SAR helicopter arrive on scene?

3. According to the owner of the Atlantic Charger, his crewmen were told that it would take more than 5 hours to dispatch a Gander-based Cormorant. The owner himself says he was told by SAR officials in Halifax that it would be 10 hours before Cormorant would arrive. What was the reason for the delay?


In answer to your questions about the rescue of the crew of the Atlantic Charger:

A Cormorant helicopter was dispatched from Gander to the distress call. The Cormorant's ETA crew was based on wind conditions at the time, the fact that the location of the vessel in distress was approximately 900nm from Gander, and the need for the Cormorant to make two fuel stops en route.

Additionally, an Aurora crew spotted the life raft from the Atlantic Charger fairly quickly, allowing a Hercules aircraft to drop off supplies, including clothing and food. In this case, a private vessel was tasked to reach the stricken vessel and did so successfully.

Thank you,

Daniel Proussalidis

Office of the Minister of National Defence and Minister for Multiculturalism

That answer ignored the obvious.

If a fishing vessel goes down off Labrador fishermen can not expect a helicopter to save them.

Canada's shame.

Ryan Cleary,


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1 Comment

Sep 22, 2021

The above are worthwhile, but from my experience in rescues during my fishing time, In rough weather, you won't get any rescue boats too leave the harbor. In my time, in 1980-90's the design experts insisted that such a rescue boat should be able to self right after being flipped over by waves or wind. The +50 footers were built with 8-9' beam to accommodate this insanity.

Today's rescue boats are slow moving in rough seas, are fuel guzzling which reduces operating range to half of what current hulls could give if our "experts" knew about what has been available and proven since 1990..

I believe the rescue crews are trained well and are ready to go out in rough…

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