One of two U.S. fishermen missing off the Pacific coast for weeks has been rescued in the waters off Vancouver Island Thursday, in what one U.S. Coast Guard official described as a “miracle.”
The two missing men were aboard the 43-foot vessel Evening, which departed Westport at the south end of the Olympic Peninsula on Oct. 12. They failed to return as planned three days later, and were reported missing this past Sunday by one of their children.
A U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson said two flight crews from Alaska and a helicopter based in Astoria then launched a massive search, combing more than 36,000 square kilometres of ocean.
“Unfortunately, we were not able to locate anybody, any sort of life rafts, any sort of debris or anything in the water,” U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier said.
On Wednesday, U.S. officials suspended the search for the two men.
Incredibly, just one day later, a civilian vessel found one of the two men alive in a tiny life raft in waters about 40 nautical miles of Ucluelet, according to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria.
“Just an unbelievable stroke of luck,” Strohmaier said.
The fate of the Evening remains unclear, and Strohmaier said officials still don’t know if it sank or remains adrift at sea.
He said the man who was rescued only survived because of the life raft, adding that without a survival suit he would have died quickly in the frigid waters of the Pacific ocean.
“Although the roof of (the life raft) is bright orange, it’s still tough to see out there, you know, the human eye can only see about 10 miles in the water, and thankfully, they were just lucky enough (to see it) but also just the fact that those good Samaritans were able to have the wherewithal to go and investigate and stop and see that raft,” he said.
“It’s definitely a true miracle here.”
The civilian fishing vessel took the man aboard, before transferring him to the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Cape Ann, which transported him to Tofino for treatment.
Strohmaier said the man was in stable condition when he was rescued, but it was unclear if he had been released from hospital.
The second man aboard the Evening, however, remains missing.
Neither U.S. nor Canadian officials could immediately say whether the rescue of the missing man would prompt a renewal of the search and rescue effort for the second mariner.
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