(Update: changes headline, dateline; re-ledes)
St. John’s, Canada, Feb 16 (EFE).- Canadian authorities announced Wednesday the end of the effort to find 12 missing crewmembers from a Spanish fishing boat that sank off the coast of Newfoundland.
Three of the 24 people aboard the Villa de Pitanxo were rescued alive and nine – not 10, as officials originally stated – bodies have been found since the vessel capsized around 04:30 GMT Tuesday.
“Regrettably,” the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said, “the search for the 12 missing fishers aboard the FV Villa de Pitanxo has been suspended.”
The Villa de Pitanxo, which was based in Marin, a port in the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia, went down on the Grand Banks, some 250 nautical miles (460 km) east of the Newfoundland coast.
“A significant number” of aircraft and vessels spent more than 36 hours searching an expanse of more than 900 sq. nautical miles amid 4 m (13 ft) seas, wind gusts of 85 km/h (53 mph) and visibility of roughly 500 m, JRCC Halifax said.
“Our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to the families, friends, and community of these individuals. The case will now be turned over to law enforcement as a missing persons at sea case,” the center said.
Mark Ouellette, a Canadian coast guard officer attached to the JRCC, told Efe that while deciding to end a search is the “toughest” aspect of the job, authorities have to weigh the risks to rescuers against the odds of survival for the missing people.
“Right now, the temperature of the water in the search area is 3 C (37.4 F). The sailors who couldn’t use emergency suits could only survive a few hours. And if they were able to remain dry and use of those suits, the survival model shows a 5 percent chance of surviving after 23 hours,” he said.
The confusion over the number of bodies recovered arose from a miscommunication with the crew of one of the Portuguese fishing boats taking part in the search, the JRCC said.
The Pitanxo’s skipper, Juan Padin, survived, along with his nephew Eduardo Rial and a Ghanaian sailor. They are aboard the Playa de Menduiña 2, another Galician-based fishing boat.
Spain’s consul-general in Montreal, Luis Seco, is in St. John’s to receive the survivors and arrange for the repatriation of the victims’ bodies.
The Villa de Pitanxo had a crew of 24: 16 Spaniards, five Peruvians and three Ghanaians, according to Spanish authorities.
Alberto Nuñez Feijoo, head of the Galician regional government, declared three days of mourning and headed to the port town of Marin to meet with local authorities and the owners of the Villa de Pitanxo. EFE