In an update issued on Wednesday morning, the Canadian Armed Forces have said the search has been called off for MS Duane Earle.
The Canadian military is investigating after a master sailor from Manitoba is believed to have accidentally fallen overboard.
Duane Earle, a Boatswain with HMCS Winnipeg, went missing while deployed on HMCS Winnipeg — a ship that is based at CFB Esquimalt — about 500 nautical miles west of San Francisco. The vessel was returning to Esquimalt, after being deployed to the Asia-Pacific region.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Commodore Angus Topshee, commander of the Canadian Fleet Pacific based in Esquimalt, told reporters that Earle was last seen on the ship at around 5 a.m. and wasn’t noticed until around 12:30 p.m. when he did not turn up for a departmental meeting and couldn’t be located.
“When it was apparent Master Earle was missing the chain of command immediately conducted a muster of the ship’s company and two rapid searches of the ship,” said Topshee. “This is the standard initial response when someone is thought to be missing.”
Earle joined the Canadian Armed Forces in June 1990 as a member of the navy reserve at HMCS Chippawa in Winnipeg.
Earle’s family has been notified.
“Master Earle is a sailors sailor with almost 2,000 days at sea,” said Topshee.
Lori King, is a friend of Earle, said she was crushed when she found he went overboard at sea.
“It was not a great start to the day. It was very, very emotional and we’re of course praying for the best outcome at this time,” King told CHEK News. “But we always know the reality of these situations when someone’s been missing this long that it could be the worst.”
King and her husband — an active military member who served alongside Earle years ago — became good friends with the sailor, often camping and spending time with him.
Once it was determined that Earle wasn’t onboard, HMCS Winnipeg also turned around, following its exact route along with a CH-148 Cyclone helicopter in an effort to find him.
Topshee said an RCAF C-140 Aurora from CFB Comox was on routine patrol at the time of the incident and was called in to help.
“It was on station for about 30 minutes over the location where Master Sailor Earle is thought to have gone into the water,” said Topshee, adding it returned to Comox for refuelling and rejoined search efforts earlier this morning.
At the time Earle is thought to have gone missing, there were four to five metre waves and the temperature was around 7 degrees. Topshee said those are typical conditions for the region at this time of year, stressing that accidents can happen at any time.
“Accidents can happen at sea in any conditions,” he explained. “The reality is that even in the best possible conditions with calm seas and bright sun and perfect weather, it can be very difficult to locate someone at sea.”
Topshee described the search area as “significant” and said that even in perfect weather conditions, finding someone in such a large area at sea is challenging at best.
“Four to five metre waves make it extremely difficult to see a sailor even if he is extremely close to the ship,” he said.
The search remains ongoing and is being conducted by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in California, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the United States Coast Guard.
“Our efforts are currently on the search and supporting Master Earle’s family and Winnipeg’s sailors. This is an unimaginably difficult time for the family and crew. My thought, since I heard the news, are with Daune’s family, friends and shipments,” said Topshee.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his thoughts and prayers during a press conference on Tuesday.
“To master sailor Earle’s family and loved ones, we are keeping you in our thoughts during this incredibly difficult time,” Trudeau said.
In a social media message sent out by the Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan, he noted that “all available resources” are being deployed to search for Earle, in hopes of bringing him home.
Sajjan added in the tweet that “the entire defence team will be there for his family during this challenging time.”
We are dedicating all available resources to search for Master Sailor Duane Earle, who went overboard, in hopes of bringing him home. During these difficult times, I keep his family & friends in my thoughts. pic.twitter.com/WTRdcauHWS
— Harjit Sajjan (@HarjitSajjan) December 15, 2020