10 dead, 11 missing after Spanish trawler sinks off Canada

Published on
February 16, 2022
The Villa del Pitanxo sank in rough seas off Canada’s east coast in the early hours of Tuesday, 15 February.

A Spanish fishing boat sank in rough seas off Canada’s east coast in the early hours of Tuesday, 15 February, 2022, taking the lives of at least 10, with another 11 missing. A search is ongoing for the remaining missing fishers.

Fifty-meter vessel “Villa de Pitanxo” operates out of northwest Spain's Galicia region. Owned by Grupo Nores, its 24-member crew included 16 Spaniards, five Peruvians, and three Ghanaians.

According to Spanish media reports, a rescue center in Halifax, Nova Scotia operated by Canada's air force and coast guard dispatched helicopters, airplanes, and a rescue vessel to the area about 250 miles off Newfoundland when the lost vessel's on-board data recorder stopped transmitting.

The Villa de Pitanxo was not located, but three of her crew were found in one of the life rafts – all suffering from severe hypothermia from cold-water exposure. The rescued survivors include the vessel’s skipper and his nephew.

The Villa de Pitanxo sunk at around 1 a.m.in rough seas, according to Maica Larriba, the Spanish government’s regional representative in Galicia, according to the CBC. Two other Galician fishing vessels were in the area and recovered 10 bodies, including three found in a life raft and four from the water.

Stephen Waller, the acting regional supervisor of maritime search and rescue with JRCC Halifax, said the cause of the sinking is not yet known. The Villa de Pitanxo did not issue a mayday call and no interviews have yet been conducted with the survivors.

Among the missing is the marine biologist Manuel Navarro, who was working as an observer with the Spanish Institute of Oceanography, according to Then24. The search has been hampered by high winds, heavy seas, and fog.

"It appears whatever did happen happened quickly," he said.

Marin Ramallo, the mayor of the town of Marín in northwestern Galicia, said the sinking of the boat was the biggest tragedy on record for the community.

“We can't remember anything worse than this,” Ramallo said.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey has offered his condolences to those affected by the tragedy.

“This afternoon I spoke with His Excellency Alfredo Martinez, ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to Canada, and directly passed along condolences on behalf of the people of the province on the loss of crew members from the Villa de Pitanxo, which sank late last night,” he said. “Like the people of Spain, Newfoundlanders, and Labradorians have a historic attachment to the sea. An attachment that is fruitful, but which all too often results in tragedy. I understand federal search and rescue authorities remain actively involved in the search for survivors, and our province continues to hope that more of the ship’s crew will be found alive. Our thoughts are with the families of the crewmembers and we share their grief.”

Grupo Nores is based in Marín and is comprised of the five companies:  Pesquerías Manuel Cores Canarias S.L.; Pesquerías Nores Marín S.L.; Frigoríficos de Galicia S.A. (Frigalsa); Nores Marine Ltd; and Nores Marín Comercial S.L. The companies fish in Argentina's Falkland Islands, Canada's Hatton Bank, Morocco, Guinea Bissau, and Senegal.

Villa del Pitanxo was engaged in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization groundfish trawl fishery at the time of the casualty.

Photo courtesy of Grupo Nores

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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