Aug 212008

Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board have completed their draft report into the capsizing and subsequent sinking of the L’Acadien II, which claimed the lives of four of the six crew members aboard.

Shortly after 0100 Atlantic daylight time on March 29, 2008, the small fishing vessel L’Acadien II struck ice and capsized while being towed by the icebreaker CCGS (Canadian Coast Guard ship) Sir William Alexander. Two crew members were rescued and three deceased crew members were recovered. One crew member is still missing and presumed dead.

TSB investigators were deployed to the Sir William Alexander the following day after it made its way to the port of Sydney. For the next several weeks, they gathered data and information through interviews with the captain and crew of the Coast Guard ship, from the surviving members of the L’Acadien II and from the crew of other vessels that were in the area at the time of the accident.

The TSB investigation also gathered electronic information from chart systems aboard the Sir William Alexander, and recordings of telecommunications from Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) in Sydney and Port aux Basques, and information from the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) as well as the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) Halifax.

As part of the TSB’s information gathering activities, investigators observed, recorded and validated two separate sets of post-occurrence sea trials, carried out by the CCG, using sister ships to the Sir William Alexander and towing vessels with characteristics similar to the L’Acadien II. The trials were done to simulate the actual towing arrangements as accurately as possible to better understand the interaction between the two vessels and the dynamics of the capsize.

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The first set of trials took place in the Bedford Basin, N.S., on June 4, 2008. On that day, CCGS Edward Cornwallis was employed to tow a vessel approximately the same length as L’Acadien II.

The second set of trials was conducted on July 19, 2008 at Baie des Chaleurs, N.B., with another sister ship to the Sir William Alexander. The CCGS Martha L. Black was employed to tow a fishing vessel virtually identical to L’Acadien II.

On July 17, 2008, a liferaft belonging to L’Acadien II, along with survival suits and lifejackets, was found on a beach near St. Esprit, N.S. Investigators recovered the equipment and transported it to TSB facilities for further analysis.

The Board has now identified individuals and organizations, whose interests may be affected by the report and who are most qualified to comment on its accuracy, to review the confidential draft of the report. The report was sent to them on August 13, 2008, and reviewers have been given 30 calendar days to review and provide comments. The Board will carefully consider each comment and then staff will prepare the final report for Board approval. Once approved, the report will be prepared for publication and made public. Assuming the reviewers find no major discrepancies within the report, it should be available for public release later in the fall.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

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