All 32 crew members now rescued from fishing vessel in distress off Nova Scotia coast

The entire 32-member crew of the Atlantic Destiny has now been evacuated from the fishing vessel, which started taking on water following a fire Tuesday night in rough seas and high winds about 200 kilometres off the coast of Nova Scotia, according to the company that owns the vessel.

“That was a huge relief for all of us. We’ve been in contact through the night and really concerned with the crew on board and making sure they got home safe,” Martin Sullivan, the CEO of Ocean Choice International, told CBC’s Information Morning Wednesday.

The Atlantic Destiny ran into trouble after a fire broke out around 8 p.m. Tuesday, possibly in the engine room, said Sullivan. The fire knocked out the vessel’s power and then the ship started taking on water.

The 43-metre-long scallop vessel was about 220 km off the coast of Yarmouth, N.S. High winds and six- to eight-metre-high seas complicated the rescue.

But Sullivan said 28 members of the crew were airlifted off the vessel by Canadian and American rescue helicopters.

A Canadian military CH-149 Cormorant helicopter used to rescue the crew of the Atlantic Destiny was at the Yarmouth airport on Wednesday. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Sullivan called the rescue “unbelievable” and a testament to the hard work of rescue crews at the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre, a federal government search and rescue organization.

The Canadian and United States coast guards, as well as several offshore fishing vessels, including the Cape LaHave, Maude Adams, Atlantic Preserver and Atlantic Protector, came to the aid of the crew, according to a news release from Ocean Choice.

4 crew members stayed behind

The Atlantic Destiny’s captain and three crew members remained on board, along with two search and rescue technicians. They managed to restore power and began pumping water out of the Atlantic Destiny. But those efforts were ultimately ineffective.

“We know she was taking on water and they were trying to keep ahead of it with the pumps, but they had to abandon at the end there … we’re not sure of the current status,” said Sullivan.

At around 8 a.m. Wednesday, everyone left the Atlantic Destiny and went aboard the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Cape Roger.

The rest of the crew was taken to Yarmouth, where they received medical attention, food and accommodations. It doesn’t appear that anyone was seriously injured.

The majority of the crew from the Atlantic Destiny were flown to the Yarmouth airport. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Ship still afloat

The Atlantic Destiny is currently still afloat and being monitored. Sullivan wasn’t sure how much damage the vessel has sustained.

The company would like to recover the vessel, but Sullivan doesn’t know if that will be possible. He said he should have a better idea of what will happen with the ship in the coming days.

It’s still not clear what caused the fire but it will be investigated, said Sullivan.

“We’re just so happy that everyone is safe,” he said.

The United States Coast Guard helicopter that helped rescue the crew of the Atlantic Destiny.(Paul Palmeter/CBC)

This isn’t the first time the ship has run into trouble. In March 2017, the Atlantic Destiny suffered a catastrophic engine failure that caused the ship to lose power.

A year later, a Transportation Safety Board report blamed the failure on a combination of maintenance gaps, a broken emergency stop mechanism and the actions of an inexperienced crew member.

The Atlantic Destiny is based out of Riverport, N.S., and is one of Ocean Choice’s six offshore fishing vessels.

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