Finance fishing boats

Death toll rises to 9 in fishing disaster off Newfoundland

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Canadian rescuers have recovered more bodies from a Spanish fishing vessel that sank in rough seas off Newfoundland, bringing the confirmed death toll to nine, but the search for 12 missing sailors was canceled Wednesday afternoon.

Lt Cmdr. Brian Owens, spokesman for the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax, Canada, said all search and rescue aircraft and vessels were returning to base and civilian vessels had been released from their obligation to contribute to effort.

The Villa de Pitanxo fishing boat, which operated out of the Galicia region of northwestern Spain, sank early Tuesday 460 kilometers (250 nautical miles) east of Newfoundland, throwing its 24 crew members in icy seas.

Three crew members were rescued and the bodies of nine others were recovered from the debris site. Owens said teams searched about 900 square nautical miles around the site, but high winds and 10-meter seas hampered the effort amid dwindling hopes of finding more survivors.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax initially reported on Tuesday evening that the death toll had risen to 10. On Wednesday, the Spanish Maritime Rescue Service said there had been an error in the count and that the Canadian authorities had reduced it to nine confirmed deaths.

“It seems that the error is due to the fact that the recovery of the bodies was carried out by different boats and that a body was counted twice,” José Luis García, director of the Spanish maritime rescue service, told the Spanish channel TVE.

The Halifax Rescue Center, operated by the Canadian Air Force and Coast Guard, dispatched helicopters, planes and a rescue vessel to the area. Eight boats were searching for survivors, a fleet made up of Canadian rescue vessels and Spanish and Portuguese fishing boats, Spanish Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Luis Planas said on Wednesday.

Planas and local fisheries officials described the sunken boat as “modern” and ready to withstand the weather typical of the region. Planas said it was “the worst tragedy for our fishing fleet in 38 years”.

The crew included 16 Spaniards, five Peruvians and three Ghanaians, according to the Spanish maritime rescue service. The survivors are the ship’s captain, Juan Padín, his nephew Eduardo Rial, and an unidentified sailor from Ghana, Spanish news agency EFE reported.

“I’m relieved because I know both are alive, but I’m also very sad for their comrades,” Gloria Padín, Eduardo’s mother and Juan’s sister, told Spanish public broadcaster TVE. .

Family members fearing the worst gathered in the Spanish coastal town of Marín as they waited for the remains to be identified.

Spain’s parliament observed a minute’s silence at the opening of Wednesday’s session for fishermen, while northwest Galicia, which has a strong fishing industry, declared three days of mourning.

“We are talking about people who knew how to sail, they are professionals, good captains and excellent sailors. So they had to be in very rough seas,” Galician regional president Alberto Núñez Feijóo said.

Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press