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Air search off N.S. coast suspended until Sunday for missing scallop fishermen

HILLSBURN, N.S. — The aerial search for five fishermen who were working on a scallop boat when it sank in the Bay of Fundy has been suspended until Sunday, and the ground search has been called off indefinitely.

The RCMP says in a news release that on Friday a Department of Lands and Forestry helicopter was used to search 20 kilometres of Nova Scotia coastline between Hillsburn and Morden, along the province’s southwest shore.

The search didn’t locate the missing fishermen or any debris from the Chief William Saulis, which sank early Tuesday morning with six on board.

The police release says the ground search was suspended on Friday and didn’t occur on Saturday “due to weather-related safety concerns.”

Police say after assessing the terrain and the tide from the air and ground, all ground searching was suspended indefinitely because conditions were determined to be unsafe.

The body of one fisherman was found Tuesday night, but the boat and the other crew members and captain have yet to be found.

Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood said in an interview on Friday the mood in her community — where half of the crew are from — is grim and “very, very raw.”

The 15-metre Chief William Saulis is owned by Yarmouth Sea Products, which said in a Thursday news release the boat had been operating out of Digby.

The owners said “an unknown event” caused the vessel to capsize as no distress call is known to have been made by radio.

The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax was alerted to a problem Tuesday at 5:50 a.m. local time when it received a signal from the boat’s Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon, a device that is automatically triggered when submerged.

The black box which tracks the vessel’s progress was checked by the company and the firm said it was determined the dragger left the fishing ground at approximately 1 a.m. on Dec. 15.

The company says that on Monday, the forecast indicated that the weather would deteriorate later in the day and into Tuesday and that as a result, vessels departed the fishing grounds in the bay and were heading back to Digby.

The Transportation Safety Board has sent a team to determine what level of inquiry will be carried out.

The men aboard the missing boat were Aaron Cogswell, Leonard Gabriel, Daniel Forbes, Michael Drake, Eugene Francis and the boat’s captain, Charles Roberts.

Drake’s younger sister, Raelene Carroll, has said in an interview it was her brother whose body was recovered Tuesday.

Drake, 48, was from Fortune, N.L., on the province’s Burin Peninsula, and Carroll said the family was in the process of having his body sent home from Nova Scotia.

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