Mar. 12 was another sad day in our marine history. It was the day the Cougar helicopter crashed into the ocean on the way to the offshore oil production platforms; 17 people lost their lives and I send my condolences out to the families of the victims.
I was born and grew up in Lush's Bight, a small fishing community on Long Island, Notre Dame Bay.
Dec. 4, 1932, the schooner 'Stanley Parsons' captained by Sidney Parsons left St. John's, laden with winter supplies for ports in Notre Dame Bay and her home port of Lush's Bight. The vessel was lost with all hands; a crew of six and one passenger, business man Alvin Parsons. Of the people lost four were married, leaving behind 16 children as orphans all from Lush's Bight.
Dec. 24, 1929, a trap skill left L'anse au Pigeon on Quirpoon Island to go to the mainland on the Northern Peninsula to get a load of firewood. This was a fishing station operated by a family from Lush's Bight. My grandfather Egdar Rice spent many summers fishing there. This trap skiff did not return; lost were five crew - four from Lush's Bight.
Since that time there has been others from my hometown lost to the sea; this is a story many communities around our province can relate to.
This is the cost of trying to earn a living from the sea and has been going on since the time of man.
The purpose of this letter is to point out the dangers of trying to make a living from the sea. I spent a large part of my life on the ocean and my most happy and satisfied time has been doing that.
But the ocean can be so cruel as our history has recorded.
A lot of things have changed since my boyhood days but we are still losing people to the ocean. While we have a good rescue service in place, it is far from perfect and we are losing people unnecessarily.
Sept. 19, 2004: 'Ryan's Commander' was lost at sea; two people died. At 18:42, Department of National Defence Cormorant helicopter was tasked and left Gander at 19:42, 60 minutes later.
Sept. 12, 2005: 'Melina & Keith II', lost at sea; four people died. Department of National Defence helicopter at Gander tasked at 16:50, left Gander at 18:10, 80 minutes after call came in.
Jan. 31, 2008: 'Check-Mate III', lost at sea; on board my good friend Captain Larry Parsons and his friend Christopher Oram both lost their lives. Department of National Defence helicopter at Gander tasked at 21:50, left Gander at 22:40, 50 minutes later. Both were reported in water and responsive, but helicopter made no effort to retrieve.
These are just three examples of disasters at sea in recent years, where if we had a quicker response time with the Department of National Defence helicopters in Gander, the outcome could have been very different and more lives would be saved.
Response time: Melina & Keith II - 80 minutes; Ryan's Commander - 60 minutes and Check-Mate III - 50 minutes. Quite a long time to get a helicopter off the ground, especially for rescue at sea where sometimes minutes or seconds is the difference between life and death.
Remember the Spanish vessel that went down on the Grand Banks a short while ago in good weather, and crew did not even get a chance to dress properly.
If we had ambulances and fire trucks that took this long to respond, the general public and the politicians would not stand for it. Why is this still allowed to continue?
We have a rescue crew in Gander, who are on site 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., I believe, and even on site have a response time of 30 minutes and after hours a response time of two hours.
In the three examples I am using these are accidents happened after hours. The people on the ocean doesn't stop work at 4:30 p.m.; it is a 24 hours, 7 days a week job.
We have much more traffic on the ocean these days because of the oil and gas activity.
My purpose for writing this letter is to put pressure on our government and hopefully to get public support to have a rescue helicopter service in Gander on standby around the clock, and also to cut the response time down less than 30 minutes and hopefully we will save more lives in the future.
(Retired) Capt Wilfred Bartlett
Brighton, Notre Dame Bay
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Mar. 12 was another sad day in our marine history. It was the day the Cougar helicopter crashed into the ocean on the way to the offshore oil production platforms.