Donaldson was part of a crew dredging Codroy Harbour, and he had watched the 65-year-old man and two passengers go out in a small fiberglass boat around 9:30 Tuesday morning to take part in the recreational food fishery.
“As the day progressed I said, ‘Jeeze, the fellow’s been out for a while.’”
Around 4:20 p.m., Donaldson brought his concerns to fisherman Jason Collier, who was just returning with his crew from a day on the water.
Collier agreed to go back out and look for the man, who was well known in Codroy. In the haste, Collier wasn’t told about the two other passengers.
At first he had no clue where to look, but after checking with another local fisherman on his radio who knew the man’s fishing habits, he and his crew headed southwest.
“As I was talking to (the other fisherman), I just looked out and sure enough I saw black on the water,” he said. “They weren’t very far out – just two and a half miles from land.”
When they got there the boat was overturned. A man was sitting on top of the boat and wearing a lifejacket, while a woman was in the water clinging to the boat.
Collier said the two were awake and talking. The woman told Collier the plug had gone out of the boat and they had begun to take on water. The third man in the boat - the boat’s owner – was not able to swim or grab the overturned vessel when it flipped over according to the survivors.
Collier and his crew brought the two survivors aboard his boat. Collier was in touch with the province’s 911 dispatch with his cell phone, and ambulances were sent to the scene.
Some other fishermen in the community located the third person’s body not far from the overturned boat. They also brought the overturned boat to shore.
Police confiscated the boat as part of their investigation.
Collier ’s wife Donna was waiting on shore with blankets for the survivors. She said the female survivor told her that her watch had stopped at 10:30, when she first went in the water. That meant they spent about six and a half hours in the water before being rescued.
“They are lucky,” said Donna. “She couldn’t move her legs or nothing.”
Police say the couple were taken to the LeGrow Health Centre in Port aux Basques and treated for hypothermia.
Collier agreed with his wife that warm, calm weather probably played a role in their survival.
“If there was any lop on, they wouldn’t have lasted,” he said.
Check Monday's edition of The Gulf News for the two survivor's account of that day.