Investigation findings (M16A0140) into the 2016 fatal capsizing of a fishing vessel near Salmon Beach, New Brunswick
Investigations conducted by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) are complex – an accident is never caused by just one factor. The June 2016 accident near Miller Brook Wharf, Salmon Beach, New Brunswick, was no exception. There were many factors that caused this accident, the details of which are contained in the seven findings as to causes and contributing factors. Furthermore, there were six findings as to risk as well as one other finding.
Findings as to causes and contributing factors
While the crew were hauling the second string of lobster traps, the third lobster trap line became entangled in another fisherman's trawl.
The strain of the entangled trap line on the hauler pulled the starboard aft gunwale downward; the freeboard on that part of the vessel decreased and the vessel took on water.
As the crew tried to haul up the trap and untangle the line, they were working near the starboard aft side of the vessel when the senior deckhand reached out over the gunwale. This compounded the reduction of freeboard in that area and more water came onto the deck of the vessel.
Although the master ordered the trap line to be released, it was too late and the vessel rolled to starboard and capsized, throwing the 3 crew members into the water.
The crew members were not wearing personal flotation devices when they entered the water, which diminished their chance of survival.
No distress communications were issued. In the darkness, it was some time before the overturned vessel was sighted and the Marie Eliser 1 came to the aid of the 3 crew members.
The master and senior deckhand were unresponsive when brought on board the Marie Eliser 1 and were later declared deceased by paramedics, while the deckhand recovered after being treated for hypothermia.
Findings as to risk
If the commercial fishing industry is not included under the New Brunswick Occupational Health and Safety Act and the WorkSafeNB safety program, there is an increased risk that fishermen may not follow safe operating practices.
If fishermen do not wear personal flotation devices or lifejackets while working on deck, despite the industry awareness initiatives promoting their use, there is an increased risk that fishermen will not survive in the event that they fall overboard.
If Transport Canada does not require fishermen to wear personal flotation devices for their personal protection at all times when on the deck of a commercial fishing vessel, there is an increased risk of fatalities when fishermen fall overboard.
If the New Brunswick Occupational Health and Safety Act does not require fishermen to wear personal flotation devices for their personal protection at all times when on the deck of a commercial fishing vessel, there is an increased risk of fatalities when fishermen fall overboard.
If fishing vessels do not carry communications equipment that is capable of sending an automatic distress signal, such as an emergency position-indicating radio beacon, search and rescue efforts may be delayed or not initiated, increasing the risk of fatalities.
The safety of fishermen will be compromised until the complex relationship and interdependency among safety issues is recognized and addressed by the fishing community.
A citizens band radio and 2 cellphones were the only communications equipment on board, and the crew did not have the opportunity to use them because the vessel capsized so quickly.