Rescued fishermen recount harrowing tale of survival
Published Tuesday, May 22, 2012 12:38PM PDT
By the time fisherman Dave Martynuik managed to send out a mayday signal, mere seconds after the MV Pacific Siren capsized in the Hecate Strait, the water in the cabin was up to his neck.
Martynuik was steering the 15-metre fishing liner two weeks ago when the boat suddenly careened starboard and started taking on water.
"I heard the roar of the motor and then ‘bwap, bwap, bwap.' I could hear my [propeller] out of the water," he told CTV News in an exclusive interview.
With the distress call made, he waited for the rushing seawater to fill the room.
"You're not going to swim out through the cab when the water's rushing in," Martynuik explained. "I took a breath. As soon as my head hit the water, of course I expelled a little bit of air and sucked up a little bit of seawater in, and I swam out and I met these guys on the hull."
Martynuik, his brother Brian and their friend Jesse Brillon were finally rescued Friday after spending 10 days stranded on a remote island off the north coast of B.C., where they had subsisted on a diet of clams and seaweed.
But the trio had no idea what they were in for when they first jumped ship and loaded into a lifeboat. They'd hoped to be rescued within a few hours; little did they know, their call for help was never heard.
Instead, the men spent the next 20 hours floating on the water, cold, wet and on the verge of hypothermia.
"The water's damn near freezing and it's just bone chilling," Brian Martynuik said.
"I started thinking, ‘Am I ever going to see my wife and kids? Am I ever going to see my family? Am I ever going to live to tell about this?' It was to the point where it could have gone either way," Dave added.
Using a tarp as a sail, they eventually reached Banks Island, a deserted land mass they estimate was roughly 13 kilometres from the crash site.
They built a shelter using their raft and driftwood found on the beach, and hydrated at a tiny freshwater stream. On their second day, a plane passed almost directly overhead, but again their cries for help fell on deaf ears.
"Couple hours were up and that's when we realized, you know, there was really no hope that he saw us. There's nobody coming," Martynuik said.
It wasn't until they had been stranded a week and a half that they finally saw their saviour, a sailor who was passing the island and decided to come inspect a pile of debris the men had left out on the beach.
"We started yelling and screaming and waving our arms," Brian said. "We thought he heard us, but it just so happens that he didn't hear us. He was just looking for Japanese floating garbage."
The men were picked up by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Tanu in good health and transported back to Prince Rupert to meet their families – who, until just that day, had no idea they had been fighting for their lives. The fishermen were out on what was expected to be a routine prawn catch when they capsized, and weren't expected home for weeks.
But as trying as their experience was, none of the men were scared off the sea. The trio says their next fishing voyage has already been planned. They set sail later this week.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Scott Roberts